Haya’s customers aren’t too picky. Most of them are fiddling with the plastic toys in the play area while they wait for their kebabs and French fries, anyway. This Israeli-run Mediterranean joint, with its peachy orange walls and large play area, is a great kid-friendly hangout in kid-heavy Gubei. Haya’s first store, on Dagu Lu, cultivates the same homey atmosphere with bright chairs and pitchers of lemonade, and if, as the menu says, she’s going for the look of being in Mom’s living room, she’s done a good job. The whole Hongqiao shebang has a maternal feel to it – when she’s not hanging out in the dining room, she’s looking over the shoulder of the cooks, or fussing with the pita bread and plates of hummus and tabbouleh.
Like Greek Taverna, it’s nothing fancy – that’s not the point. Haya’s is resolutely casual, and so is the food. Sometimes it hits – the bright tabbouleh or an eggplant dish, fried and then marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic both stand out. And sometimes it misses (runny, bitter tahini, heavy falafel, off lemonade on our most recent visit). Sometimes, it does both. The inconsistent Jerusalem mix sandwich is a case in point, a gamble as to whether the grilled chicken, chicken hearts, and onion come out smoky and moist, or, as it’s been on other visits, overcooked and dry. Overall, Haya’s has more pluses than minuses. Chalk up a first-floor bakery selling ¥11 bags of pita plus bagels, breads, and muffins, in the first category – but consistency in the second.