While we might not be able to get the full experience of a thriving Middle Eastern marketplace–its smells, sounds, and crowded sights–Chef Einat Admony‘s food will certainly give you the feeling of a great escape. The critically-lauded chef is known for her determination, so we’re not surprised that she was able to open a delicious Miami outpost in the throws of a burning, global pandemic. And despite it all, Motek Café gives us a welcome respite among the raging flames.

All photos courtesy of Motek.

Meaning “Sweetheart” in Hebrew, Motek Café is a charming and easily satisfying pitstop inside an unassuming commercial colonnade in Downtown Miami. Sandwiched between jewelry shops and singled out by a warming skylight, the fast-casual, Israeli eatery oozes with the trademark Middle Eastern hospitality that centers around food. Through her three NYC-based concepts, Kish-Kash, Balaboosta, and Taim, she’s been able to aim the spotlight on classic Israeli food traditions: couscous, fine dining, and falafel respectively. With Motek, she’s brought  all of the very best of Israel’s flavors to the forefront–just like a marketplace.

Speaking of marketplaces, the cafe is also lined with copies of her two cookbooks–Balaboosta and Shuk–on the shelves, both for purchase. Her latest release, Shuk, is the culmination of a deep love affair with Tel Aviv’s many marketplaces and a beautiful homage to her homeland. Like the book, Motek’s menu is filled with Israeli classics and the country’s many adopted culinary influences over the decades: Yemenite staples, Moroccan traditions, and Persian aromas united. Made all the friendlier by the welcoming staff and passionate cooks under the hood.

What to get: You absolutely can’t miss their labneh and hummus, so go for the sampler plate to have a bit of everything. The Arayes burger is unlike any burger you’ve tried in town, grilled directly in their homemade pita, and definitely go for the zaatar fries on the side. Make sure to pair with an Israeli salad for a refreshing bite, and top it off with their in-house malabi, a beautifully aromatic custard topped with floral water, pistachios, and coconut flakes.