Ever since I watched the Tel Aviv episode of celebuchef Todd English's Food Trip, I've become obsessed with shakshouka, a Middle Eastern dish that poaches eggs in a sauce made of tomatoes, hot peppers, and spices. Think huevos rancheros with a different spice profile. I've been trying to get my hands on merguez sausage so I can make English's recipe, but so far I haven't gotten around to it. So, I was pretty thrilled to see it on a local menu the other day.
Rutledge Café has a fresh, spicy version sans sausage. Apparently, the meat is not a standard ingredient, according to chef and proprietor Jasmine Mongy, who seemed thrilled that I had even heard of it. Despite its rarity, shaksouka (their spelling) has become the shop's number two seller, mainly because it's really tasty and very spicy. Next time I get it, I'll be sure to request the eggs runny. They were a bit too hard for my tastes, and I think the yolk would have made the tomato sauce even better.
Jasmine and her husband Sam bought the business over the summer after they moved here from New York. They are originally from Egypt. Jasmine makes a lot of the items in-house and thinks her falafel might be one of the only ones you can find made from scratch around here.
My dining companions ordered the Mediterranean Mix Plus, which, for $9, comes with four falafel in addition to the baba ghanoush and hummus pictured here. It could easily be shared by two people for lunch.
Sam pours a fine cup of Turkish coffee, if you're inclined to the stronger brews.
My Take: Welcome to the neighborhood Mongys! There's not too much north of the Crosstown so it's great to see a mom and pop revitalize this little corner of Rutledge Avenue. They've kept the menu nice and easy with loads of breakfast items (toasted bagel, veggie omelet, strawberry pancakes) along with plenty of sandwiches and wraps, with choices for the vegans out there. The special plates menu is where you'll find the kabobs, falafel, spinach pie, and chicken over rice with white sauce. The prices start at around $5 and don't go north of $10, which makes Rutledge Café an easy favorite.
Pros: Ethnic flavors, inexpensive, friendly proprietors, parking lot in back of building
Cons: Um, perhaps the location could be a drawback for some, but this is pretty much an ideal place for me and my ilk