Off The Menu: Sababa on Kearny Nails High Quality Israeli Street Food

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From cultural inspirations and the palette of home cooking, chef/owner Guy Eshel has mastered the art of mouth-watering street food to a science and the lines of people agree. Get to know this flavorful eatery as it blows up in the Bay Area.

What happened to be a stumble upon sort of experience turned out to be the most filling FiDi lunch we’ve ever had, Sababa on Kearny has been feeding the hungry souls who come to fulfill their lunchtime fantasies. And owner / chef Guy Eshel isn’t slowing down. “FiDi was a natural choice because our food is quick, fresh, and healthy. For people that eat lunch out several times a week, they can come to Sababa and have a real meal, with vibrant flavors and seasonings, but within their lunch hour and budget.“

Bringing the traditional flavors of Israeli eats and the modern fast-paced atmosphere of SF, Eshel wanted to make his first opening a bellwether instantly, ”Sababa is a fast casual concept that combines Israeli street food classics with creative Mediterranean-inspired mezze salads. We bake our own pita in a stone hearth oven, and create everything from scratch including our hot sauces and pickles for our pickle bar. The atmosphere is a modern, hip SF vibe but the food has authentic flavors and dishes.” Without missing a beat, Sababa quickly worked it’s way into the SF food scene seamlessly.

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“Sababa is a Hebrew and Arabic slang word meaning to have a good time - and really that’s how I describe what we try to do at Sababa.”

Eshel told us about the idea behind his very successful pita bar, giving the choices back to the customers, eaters alike can easily customize and swap toppings and ingredients for a lunch that is tailored to them. Starting with either a pita sandwich, bowl, or hummus, the selection of toppings from there are endless but all work together harmoniously. “I’ve always wanted to open my own restaurant, but always thought it would be later in my life, after years of fine dining training. Instead, I came to the conclusion that I like cooking casual, tasty food, especially my childhood cuisine from Israel. At the age of 23, instead of finishing up a business degree while working in fine dining, I decided to take the plunge and pursue Sababa seriously.

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When trying Sababa for the first time, one can find it overwhelming (especially with hordes of people waiting to get their fill), but the wait is so worth it. For Eshel, creating the menu was a labor of love, “I’ve probably changed the recipe (for the falafel) 10 times before I was happy with it. That being said, I highly recommend trying a sabik sandwich. It’s something uniquely Israeli. It comes from Iraqi jews that came to Israel, and it’s now one of the most popular sandwiches in Israel.”

Now with growing popularity, Sababa is planning to stay open for the dinner rush, “We are planning on opening for dinner in early September. People that don’t work in the FiDi don’t get a chance to eat our food, and they hear about it via media and friends and want to try it too. We’re going to make that happen for them, while remaining closed on the weekends.”

Three cheers for late night cravings.

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// Sababa, 329 Kearny St, (FiDi), sababasf.com


Written by Anthony Rogers, photography by Shannon Mclean — Get more food in your inbox weekly. It’s delicious. Do you think that Sababa should be in next year’s Bay Bites? Let us know!

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