Owner restaurateur Tal Postelnik Baum was raised in Israel and spent seven years in Italy, which gives her both traditional hand-me-down Sabra family recipes and the experience and range for her two upscale restaurants. As founder and CEO of Oliva Restaurant Group, she is laser-focused on Midtown-BeltLine and offering authenticity as a cultural culinary staycation.
Maybe we are not traveling to Israel, but we can sure eat like it at Rina and feel hip in the unlikely location of the Ford Factory Lofts. The menu (accented in Hebrew) covers mezze, hummus, pita sandwiches, platters, and skewers paired with boozy milkshakes and cocktails, beer and wine.
Fashioned after a beach café, the restaurant has a snazzy bar, seating areas, modern lighting on the one side, with a patio extension on the Atlanta BeltLine.
More upscale sister restaurant Aziza has a seductive interior with Moroccan, Lebanese, Persian and Iranian dishes with a modern twist.
Off Howell Mill, as an offshoot of Aziza, Falafel Nation offers Israeli street food to go with some of the same items as Rina with all the fixins’ and messy eating.
Literally a stone’s throw from Rina at Ponce City Market is another Oliva res-taurant, Bellina Alimentari, a kaleidoscope of authentic Northern Italian cuisine, vino, and mini marketplaces, featured previously in this column.
For the purposes of this article, our takeout was from Rina, which pays homage to Baum’s grandmother, whose family photos grace the entrance.
Learn about exotic food combinations with flavors such as dukkah and harissa.
What we sampled:
The colorful starters – choices to mix and match. 3 for $10, 6 for $18.
Pickled mixed vegetables: tart, vinegary, celery, carrots, onion, yellow cauliflower in large chunks.
Unusual peach/mauve colored beet cubes (almost resembling raw tuna) tangy with tahini sauce, very unusual compilation topped with sesame seeds. Even better the next day.
Splendid magenta purple shredded slaw with sumac.
Tabbouleh: Soaked bulgur wheat, chopped parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, tomato cubes, and in this case, garlicky for sure.
Exquisite, marinated mushrooms
Standard Israeli salad with cukes and tomatoes.
Hummus comes in three varieties along with pita:
Hard egg, pickles, slaw, crispy chickpeas, slaw, $8.
Pine nuts, beef herbs, $10.
We went with this one: Roasted spiced butternut squash, dukkah and harissa, $8.
Dukkah is a North African-Egyptian mixture of herbs, nuts, seeds and spices. Harissa is a Tunisian-based chili pepper paste, and may contain caraway seeds, cumin, olive oil, herbs, paprika and garlic powder. Slightly sweet smoky and tangy, but not super hot.
Falafel salad: Feta (very mild), crispy chickpeas, romaine, grape tomatoes. The standout was the homemade green goddess tahini dressing and artful couli presentation.
The Tahini chocolate chip cookie ($3) was mind blowing. “Chip” is an understatement. Slabs of gooey fudgy chocolate rippled through this creamy mound, leaving us begging for more.
Baum helped us learn more:
AJT: What’s the secret to making a good hummus?
Baum: You have to cook the chickpeas until they are very soft. When pinching the chickpea with two fingers, they should be very soft and smash.
AJT: How has the pandemic affected you?
Baum: The pandemic changed the way people use restaurants. We have shifted to online ordering and enhanced our takeout offerings at the beginning of the pandemic to adopt to the new norm.
AJT: How would you compare Rina’s progress versus the more elaborate sister restaurants?
Baum: Rina’s nature being on the BeltLine is more casual and relaxed. We have been loved by the community since day one and are grateful for all the support we have been getting even through these trying times.
AJT: What type of customers are you seeing there on Ponce?
Baum: We have a lot of regulars from the surrounding neighborhoods, people walking the BeltLine, and also people from other areas of town who come to Rina just for the great food and fun atmosphere.
Rina is located at 699 Ponce de Leon Avenue just east of Ponce City Market. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday noon to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday noon to 8 p.m.