Israeli Opens Multi-Cultural Hot Chick-Peas
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Israeli Opens Multi-Cultural Hot Chick-Peas

Mark Ben-Yoar left his high-tech career to open Hot Chick-Peas in a unique venue.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

  • The falafel platter is a popular entrée shown here with fresh-from-scratch hummus and baba ghanoush. Note the creative garnish detail.
    The falafel platter is a popular entrée shown here with fresh-from-scratch hummus and baba ghanoush. Note the creative garnish detail.
  • The herb-crusted salmon came with fragrant rice, red cabbage and tabouli.
    The herb-crusted salmon came with fragrant rice, red cabbage and tabouli.
  • The roasted cauliflower is scorched and flavored with parsley and olive oil.
    The roasted cauliflower is scorched and flavored with parsley and olive oil.
  • Ben-Yoar poses by his “Shalom” plaque and shofar.
    Ben-Yoar poses by his “Shalom” plaque and shofar.
  • Hamana and Ben-Yoar are eager to please customers.
    Hamana and Ben-Yoar are eager to please customers.

Gotta love the double entendre name! Although you might not encounter hot chicks on Presidential Parkway, we did find authentic, fresh Mediterranean street food. Israeli born Mark Ben-Yoar came off a 20-year career in cyber security-electrical engineering with AT&T to fulfill his dream of returning to his Israeli-Moroccan culinary roots.

“We are now rounding out our first year in business; but imagine changing course with eight months of the COVID situation. We are finding our way as food bloggers find us unique and funky,” he said.

“I grew up making fresh pita, tweaking Italian dishes with my siblings and cooking with my father’s influence from Casablanca.” The father of four, he served as a medic in the Israel Defense Forces followed by tour-guiding back home in Israel. The other part of this partner-management team is friend and chef Saeed Hamana and his sister Lubina, both Christian Arabs from Nazareth.

Hamana and Ben-Yoar are eager to please customers.

The location of Hot Chick-Peas is certainly off the beaten path, near I-85 and I-285 in an eclectic industrial area “PREP Cook|Create|Connect, known as a commercial kitchen and culinary accelerator. PREP is a compendia of 200 food-related businesses: catering, food truck home bases, gourmet dog foods, artisans, bakers, food kit prep companies, manufacturing, and private spaces 24/7, including a handful of retail dining with outdoor table options.

Noting this area of Atlanta is rich in ethnic variety, Ben-Yoar added, “We speak Arabic, Spanish and Hebrew. Here we don’t do politics. We talk about food, peace and love. We even have Syrian and Iraqi customers in addition to Israelis who also use our catering division. This year we rolled out our high holiday menu, which was very successful and had traditional food like brisket and salmon. Also a few weekends ago here, we had an outside street event for 350.”

The food delivers on its promise. Chef Saeed notes, “Everything is made fresh daily with love and patience from scratch. We boil and grind our own beans to make the hummus and smoke the eggplant for baba ghanoush. And a bounty of herbs and flavors: parsley, za’atar, serrano peppers, some Indian spices in our signature dish, hot chickpeas. Here you will find nothing frozen!”

Popular dishes are shawarma, $12.99, with rice or in platters with one side. Falafel platter, $10.99, chicken schnitzel, kabobs, tabouli (cracked wheat salad) $5, roasted cauliflower, tahini, purple cabbage slaw, roasted potatoes, hand cut fries, lamb kibbe, 12 pieces for $30, fresh stuffed grape leaves, $8. A wonderful melt-in-your-mouth surprise was the iced apple cake dessert (enough for two) and pistachio baklava, a crunchy, less-sweet version versus the gooey Greek variety. Sometimes they serve knaffe, a cheesy orange-flavored Israeli dessert. Ben-Yoar teased, “The only complaint we have is that the portions are too big!”

Ben-Yoar poses by his “Shalom” plaque and shofar.

We were impressed with the artistic presentation and lively action in the open kitchen. The black olives with pits were authentic and the salad dressing had a Greek vinegary bite. This perfect vinegar taste was detectible in the red cabbage and tabouli. The rice was Persian-like with a licorice fragrance. The roasted cauliflower was scorched and browned in shards of parsley, top-shelf olive oil and not too much salt. A unique twist on the falafel was a ridge on the sides of the balls which may be a result of a mini muffin-like scooper. The herb crusted salmon ($15.99) was enough for two meals and came with rice and side.

Hot Chick-Peas is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, til 7 p.m. on Friday, and closed Sunday. There are some tables outside and 25 could be seated inside pre-COVID. “We are still experimenting and may add more hours. Remember, because of COVID, we only got all our equipment in here in May.”

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