NYC Dining: Rectangles

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Rectangles Cafe & Bar
1431 1st Ave, New York, NY

(212) 744-7470

Web Site:

The hot summer days in New York City evoke a climate not unlike the summer I spent abroad in Israel in 1990. I remember fondly the cafes in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, which stayed open until late in the evening and served all kinds of Middle Eastern delights, including dishes originating from Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. One such place that comes very close to the experience of eating at an Israeli cafe is Rectangles, a Kosher Israeli/Yemenite restaurant on the Upper East Side that has been in existence in various forms and locations in NYC since 1987.

Rectangles evokes a strong resemblance to the cafes on Dizengoff Street in Tel-Aviv.

Want to take a trip to Israel? Go no further than First Avenue! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Rectangles is one of the few venues in New York City where you can enjoy a Maccabee, an Israeli lager brewed in the Czech Pilsner style.

Rectangles’ hummus is one of the best in the Israeli style I’ve ever had. Nice and creamy, very garlicky with lots of lemon juice in it.

The hummus is served with a puffy Syrian-style pita bread, nice and hot out of the oven.

A selection of Israeli pickles.

Felafel appetizer.

Felafel appetizer, cross section

Kebab assortment

French Fries and Israeli Salad.

Chicken Saute with rice and peas.

Meatballs with Cous Cous. This was a big hit with everyone.

“King” Malawach, the Yemenite equivalent to a Chinese scallion pancake. Its construction is similar to French pastry, with hundreds of layers. Its topped with egg, tomato, and mushrooms.

Stuffed grape leaves with Turkish salad.

Kibbe, a Lebanese dish made with bulgur wheat, beef and pignoli nuts. Another big winner at the table.

Israeli-style babaghanoush, or roasted eggplant pureed with sesame paste, garlic and lemon juice.

Kibbe cross-section.

Halvah, or sesame paste candy coated with chocolate and nuts.

A malawach with chocolate sauce.

This is not a pint of Guinness — its a Turkish coffee. My suggestion is not to drink one of these past 6 at night, it’s very strong, and sweet.

Moroccan-style mint tea, with fresh mint sprigs and black tea.

12 Responses to NYC Dining: Rectangles

  1. Melissa says:

    Never have I seen Israeli food photographed so beautifully!

    Now I feel as if I had been somehwhere in the middle east without ever having left home … yasher koach, Jason!!

  2. jackson bullocks says:

    One has to wonder – I assume the place is kosher so they don’t they have to be making the mallawach with a ton of trans fats?

  3. Not necessarily. Its a Kosher meat restaurant, not a dairy one. The oils are usually Pareve, or neutral. They can’t use butter because that’s dairy.

  4. jackson bullocks says:

    yes, all the replacements I know for butter that are pareve are kinds of margarine

  5. One of the ones Kosher meat restaurants use is Nyafat. I believe that is high in trans-fats. However, there’s nothing stopping a restaurant from using Canola, or Olive Oil.

  6. […] my way back from Rectangles last night I wanted to pick up some bagels, so I punched in “bagels” into my Garmin […]

  7. Harry says:

    Hey Jason. I have to admit it looked like pretty authentic Israeli grill fare. This coming from someone who eats a this type of joint in Israel at least three times a week. If the last time you were here was 1990…whew…man, have things changed. Come visit and I will take you to my favorite joints. We shall feast upon Jerusalem Mixed Grill at Hatztot! Slurp Kube soup at Mordoch! Wipe hummous at Ta’ami! Oh, the places we’ll go!

  8. Yeah, its been a while. I can assure you, if I head over the pond to Tel Aviv I’d let you and Baroness Tapuzina know :)

  9. […] my way back from Rectangles last night I wanted to pick up some bagels, so I punched in “bagels” into my Garmin GPS, and up […]

  10. You better let me know when you come.

    Looks like a nice place Jason. Malawach is made with margarine, although I suspect it was originally made with oil.

  11. Pan says:

    Jason, how did your stomach feel after you ate at Rectangles? Years ago, it used to be in the East Village, and I don’t remember what I ate there, but it was so fatty, it did a number on my digestive system (so bad, I imagined I had drunk motor oil), so I never went back. That might have been a problem because it was margarine, for that matter, as much as because of the sheer amount of oil. But it was a long time ago and at a different location, so things could have changed for the better. That said, I recently had a great dinner at Azuri Cafe and didn’t have the same problems. I suspect he uses good light olive oil. Have you been to Azuri recently? Man oh man, their dolmas. Most falafel places in New York serve them cold and kind of slimy. At Azuri, I had to wait while he made them to order, and were they ever good!

  12. Dan says:

    I just found your review of Rectangles Restaurant. It is without a doubt the most appetizing pictures I have ever seen. I never thought a plate of hummus/falafel could look as good. You have done the impossible, captured Rectangles great food in a picture. Great authentic food as Rectangles deserves such beautiful pictures. Their food never oily and always cooked to perfection.

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