Restaurant Review: Charutzim

Going out to eat at a sit-down restaurant should be a pleasant experience from start to finish. In my restaurant reviews, I judge a restaurant on the quality they claim to be. A subjective standard, if you will.

Rarely in my entire foodservice experience have I eaten at a restaurant where the service has given me more pleasure than the actual food. Even the name of the restaurant is appropriate. In English, it means “hardworking.”

Indeed.

My wife and I found ourselves with a couple of hours in the Talpiot section of Jerusalem while our car was in for servicing. Around the corner from the garage is a small café/bistro called Charutzim. We decided to grab breakfast there.

The Shekel organization provides integration services for people with special needs. Charutzim is a restaurant created by Shekel and staffed with their members, in order to provide training for jobs in the foodservice industry.

Our order was simple; bagels with eggs and salad, and coffee. I asked how much extra a large coffee would be instead of the small coffee that came with the bagel, and was provided the answer promptly and definitively. I’ve been told before, elsewhere, that I couldn’t substitute, which is the dumbest thing ever. What I’ve told my waiters is that they can never, ever give the answer “no” to a customer. If they were ever unsure, they were to tell the customer they would have to check, and then bring he issue up with me. Otherwise, the customer was to be provided with every amenity we could, and charge where appropriate.

Our server, Marty, was conscientious, helpful and quick with our order. Not only that, but when I asked him for extra napkins, he didn’t simply turn and walk away to fetch them, he responded in the affirmative first, then went to retrieve them.

One of the primary indicators of the quality of a restaurant for me is the general cleanliness of the place. The staff went well above and beyond. One guy was wiping the menus. Two different people were sweeping the floor in our area. A young woman was soaping up the netilat yadayim washing station, not just spraying it with surface cleaner.

Many chefs got their start at the very bottom and worked their way up. Foodservice has always been an industry that provides a level playing field for entry level positions, and rewards hard work and dedication to people who apply themselves. Charutzim is giving that opportunity to members of our society that deserve to be given the chance to be productive in an industry that is known to be difficult to work in, and the people who work there are meeting that challenge with gratifying results.

Charutzim has become my instant favorite restaurant in Talpiot, and I very much look forward to enjoying many more dining experiences there.