David Winer, the 32-year-old owner, chef, manager and server at the recently opened restaurant, Adea’s Mediterranean Kitchen, has been up since before dawn, preparing the day’s homemade menu. At an hour when most people are enjoying their first cup of coffee, he is already busy stirring an enormous pot of Jerusalem Bean Soup that has been bubbling away for four hours.
“It’s a very simple recipe with very simple ingredients,” he said, describing the Israeli staple that is made of two kinds of beans, tomato paste, onions, salt pepper, oil and water. “That’s it. Then cook it for eight hours.” He checked to make sure the soup wasn’t burning.
The secret that separates Adea’s’ bean soup from its peers? “We cook it with a lot of love,” he said with a wide grin.
Adea’s, located at 90 Lafayette Street in the space previously occupied by Salem Theatre Company, is Salem’s first kosher vegetarian eatery. The 41-seat restaurant is open from 10 a.m. Sunday through Friday, closing at 3 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. the rest of the week.
Winer chose Salem for business and lifestyle reasons. He and his family live in an apartment around the corner from the restaurant and he loves how local Salem is. “It’s a city with a small town feel,” he said.
It also is a city known for its varied restaurants and excellent food. “They have the basics here, but there is nothing like ours. In Boston, there are hummus places all over the place. In Salem, there is no kosher or falafel restaurant,” he said.
Adea’s is under the kosher supervision of Chabad of the North Shore.
Having a kosher restaurant is important to Winer because he and his family eat only kosher food. However, he points out that being kosher is an add-on value for Adea’s. For him, the larger issue is that he serves only vegetarian food. “It’s an environmentally friendly thing,” he said proudly.
The menu is small, featuring a handful of staples, including a hot hummus platter, stuffed grape leaves, Israeli salad, babaghanoush, and the crowd-pleasing bean soup. There are also two or three daily specials, such as roasted Tuscan vegetables with Tuscan beans and black bean and veggie soup with rice. “What we like about our menu is that it’s very small. We have a lot of leeway,” he said, emphasizing that everything is cooked fresh every day.
For Winer, returning to the North Shore is returning to his roots. He grew up in Swampscott, where he graduated from Swampscott High School in 2002. After earning a degree from University of Massachusetts in hospitality management, he worked in Florida and New York City. At age 24, he decided to go to Israel, intending to visit for six months. Instead, he stayed for six years, becoming co-partner of Tel Aviv’s Café Kaymak, a coffee shop.
In Israel, Winer explained, there is a real “coffee shop culture”, which draws people for conversation and camaraderie. “Coffee shops are the real gathering places whereas in America, it’s usually bars and restaurants,” he said.
“It was a great learning experience for me,” he said of the “cool, funky, bohemian” place where he fine-tuned his recipes for hummus, falafel, bean soup and other Middle Eastern fare. “There is a lot of influence from there,” he said of Adea’s’ menu. “I wanted to create a place with an Israeli feel.”
His Israeli coffee shop provided more than just schooling in authentic Israeli cuisine. It also provided him the opportunity to meet Adena, his Ethopian-born Israeli wife.
“Cliché as it is, it was love at first sight,” he said. Adena came to an event at his Café Kaymak shop and one year later, they were married. The couple has two young children and do everything themselves.
Word of mouth about the new restaurant is nothing short of raves. Elana Gerson, of Salem, lived in Israel for five years. “The food is fantastic,” she said as she lunched on the Adea’s sampler platter. “I feel like I’m in Israel.”
Susan Steigman of Marblehead agreed. “The food is delicious and the service hospitable. The hummus is outstanding,” she said
On a recent Monday, the restaurant was nearly full as a steady flow of people ordered lunch. David and Adena were behind the counter, she taking customers’ orders and he wielding a giant spatula.
“It’s a real Mom and Pop restaurant. It’s just the two of us. We have no employees. It’s early mornings and late nights,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but we wanted it, we asked for it and we got it.”
Although Winer admits there were many unforeseen challenges to taking on an empty space and creating a restaurant from scratch, the man who “loves serving people” has no regrets.
“The feedback has been unbelievable. My first loves are my daughters and my wife and my family. But when people say, ‘Wow, I love your food’, it makes me feel so good. I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I guess this was my calling.”
Judging from their cleaned plates and satisfied smiles, his customers couldn’t agree more.
For more information, visit http://adeasmk.com.