With so many food carts in Central Oregon, it can be hard to decide where to eat. But, only one cart serves Israeli street food — Shimshon in Bend. What started as a food cart at the Midtown Yacht Club is now part of Barrio in Downtown Bend. Find delicious pita bread, housemade hummus, and Mezze platters when you visit one of the two Shimshon locations.
Shimshon brings Israeli cuisine to Bend
Originally, Shimshon joined the Midtown Yacht Club in the late winter of 2021. Their menu features casual dining options like the Shimshon bowl and Mezze sampler.
Shimshon bowl comes with hummus, pickled veggies, greens, and Israeli marinated tomato and cucumber salad. It’s served with your choice of kebab and housemade sauces.
Mezze sampler showcases hummus, fried cauliflower with Tahina, olives with almonds and orange, Muhamarra with eta and pistachios, and Tabouli salad with mint and feta. Then, choose from chicken shawarma, Romanian beef, lamb Kawarma, lemon-garlic shrimp, or falafel. Get your choice of side—Za’atar Fries or flatbread.
(For clarification, Tahina is a prepared sauce made with Tahini sauce, while Tahini is the pure ingredient of pureed sesame seeds.)
But, it was the stuffed pita that caught my eye.
Stuffed pita is loaded with hummus, pickled veggies, Israeli salad, fresh greens, amba, Tahina, fries, and crumbled feta. Choose your protein: falafel, kebab, or sabich (grilled eggplant with boiled egg). Make it spicy with zhug sauce!
I ordered the stuffed pita with the lemon garlic shrimp kebab and made it ‘spicy.’ I was not prepared for the flavor explosion that I was about to experience. While I can’t imagine it getting better than these variations, I’m looking forward to trying it next with sabich.
Because I believe in ordering a shared plate for the table, I ordered some ala carte offerings:
- Flatbread and hummus
- Chicken kebab
- Za’atar fries.
I could have eaten the incredibly flavorful, juicy chicken kebab with airy flatbread and perfectly seasoned hummus and not have thought I was missing out on anything else.
How Shimshon started
Steven and Amy Draheim opened Shimshon, an Israeli street food cart, at Midtown Yacht Club in February of 2021. Many locals know Steven as the owner of Barrio (which operates at three locations, including their Downtown Bend restaurant and two food trucks). After purchasing another food cart, the Draheims decided to try something different.
“We talked about a new concept, toyed with a few different ideas, and ultimately decided it was time to give the Israeli street food concept we’d been dreaming of, a try,” Amy reflects. She continues, “As restaurant owners, this year has been challenging, and yet, the food truck model has been a big part of keeping the ‘Barrio family’ afloat.”
Israeli street food in Bend
It’s not by chance that the Draheims chose Israeli cuisine for their next venture. The food cart pays homage to Amy’s heritage and family, many of whom still reside in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The couple visited Tel Aviv in 2017, which was Steven’s first visit.
“We’ve been lucky to travel all over the world, including a lot of time in Spain and Mexico, which has influenced our Barrio menus over the years, but it’s that trip to Israel that just sort of stuck with Steven,” says Amy.
“We spent a week living in an apartment-style rental in Tel Aviv, two short blocks to Carmel Market, and two long blocks to the beach. From there, we’d grab bikes and cruise the boardwalk, exploring Jaffa. We ate at Hummus Abu Gosh, which the late great Anthony Bourdain called the best hummus in the world.”
So, it’s no wonder that this trip made a sizeable impression on Steven, whose life’s work has revolved heavily around global cuisine.
Heritage food and drink
Fast-forward nearly four years to late 2020 when the idea of Shimshon came to fruition. The Draheims had recently launched their second food cart (also located at Midtown Yacht Club) and Steven was ready to try something new.
For Steven, the affinity for Israeli cuisine began in 2017. But for Amy, it dates back to her childhood.
“My Dad’s side of my family still lives in Jerusalem, and I have fond memories of visits to my Savta’s (grandmother’s) apartment, where she fed us, and fed us, and fed us. At 80 years old, she’d still make her weekly trips to the shouk (market) for fresh produce, spices, and bags full of sunflower seeds for my Dad, and more. She’d feed us watermelon with Bulgarian cheese and mint on the couch, while American soap operas played in the background.
While most of Steven’s family resides in Oregon, many of Amy’s family members are spread across the globe; she’s currently the sole member of her family living in Oregon. So, the second best way for her to feel connected to her family and heritage? Through the memories of food.
Amy shares, “One of the silver linings of the year has been celebrating individuality, and what better time to open a truck specific to my heritage? Second, being far away from my family, this truck was a way to bring us closer, if only through recipes. Finally, that time in Tel Aviv really had stuck with Steven, and when he started playing around with ingredients and recipes, let’s just say he fell hard. Israeli food draws influence from all over the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.
Honoring Shimshon’s namesake
Shimshon is a Hebrew name that means “bright sun” and has Biblical references to a hero with exceptional strength. Also, Shimshon is the honorary Hebrew name given to Steven by Amy’s Dad before their 2013 wedding. The food cart’s logo, a pomegranate, pays homage to their days spent in Tel Aviv—cruising the markets, sipping on fresh pomegranate juice, and soaking up the sun along the Mediterranean Sea.
While Amy muses that Shimshon might be the first Central Oregon eatery to label itself Israeli cuisine outwardly, she’s proud to be a part of a local food collective with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences—like Bo’s Falafel and Kefi Fast Fresh Mediterranean.
“It’s a big undertaking to claim a cuisine and then live up to it, but it’s incredibly rewarding. We’ve met so many Israelis and people who have an affinity for Israel or Israeli food, who have come down to the truck and enjoyed the experience,” she says.
“There’s something about that specificity, maybe it’s pride, or a feeling of shared identity—whatever it is, we’re very happy to bring the tastes, smells, textures, and flavors of Israel to Bend.”
Shimshon joins Downtown Bend
After launching the Shimshon food cart at Midtown Yacht Club, the Draheims decided to expand. So, what better way to reach their hungry customers than by leveraging their downtown restaurant? Now, what was originally Barrio is Barrio/Shimshon in Bend.
The dinner menu features favorites from both eateries. Shimshon’s menu showcases many of their mezze (selection of small dishes served as appetizers) options, including Israeli-inspired cocktails.
Tel-Aviv Sour is made with whiskey, cardamom simple syrup, lemon, Angostura bitters, and red wine. Or, choose from a variety of Shimshon cocktails.
Shimshon at Midtown Yacht Club
1661 NE 4th St
Bend, OR 97701
Shimshon Downtown Bend
915 NW Wall Street
Bend, OR 97703