Enjoy Oren's hummus fully loaded, topped with tender lamb shoulder braised with North African spices and pomegranate ($12.50).
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The rustic-chic look of the Cupertino Oren’s, with its brass railings, tufted banquettes and reclaimed wood, will be the model for future locations.
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Side dishes get starring roles at Oren’s ($11 for a three-sampler dish).
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For dessert, dig into luscious Bavarian cream ($6).
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He is an angel investor and serial internet entrepreneur who founded such successful startups as Hotbar, the first company to commercialize a browser toolbar. Yet Oren Dobronsky knows his true legacy will probably lie in something entirely different—a humble chickpea dip. “You could build a billion-dollar business,” says Dobronsky of Palo Alto, “but you tell people that you are Oren from Oren’s Hummus and they all want to take a selfie with you.”
Because when you make a deliriously smooth, exceptionally rich and intensely nutty-tasting hummus that puts supermarket versions to shame, people go a little crazy. One customer dines at the original Oren’s Hummus in downtown Palo Alto Monday through Friday every single week. At the second location in Mountain View, it’s not uncommon for the same groups of friends to show up every Friday for lunch like clockwork. And when the newest, largest and splashiest Oren’s opened this summer with 150 seats at Main Street Cupertino, it wasn’t long before a line stretched out the door at lunchtime with a 30-minute wait. In the coming year, two Oren’s locales are expected to open in San Francisco and another in the San Jose area. Eventually, Dobronsky hopes to grow beyond California.
When the Tel Aviv native moved from Manhattan to Silicon Valley in 2008, he found, to his dismay, no good hummus anywhere. So, three years later, he and his wife decided to open a Palo Alto restaurant centered on hummus, specialties such as fatush salad and chicken schnitzel pita sandwiches. “We didn’t think it would resonate so well,” Dobronsky says. “It was a big surprise.”
Six months in, Dobronsky brought in David Cohen, a chef who’s headed such kitchens as Scala’s in San Francisco; and his wife, Mistie Cohen, who owns EyeSpy Critiquing & Consulting, a San Jose company that trains incognito diners to evaluate restaurants, as well as offers operations expertise to restaurants. The Cohens, now partners at Oren’s, helped expand the brand to include a catering kitchen and farmers market stands. The two couples travel together to Israel regularly for inspiration. After noticing the prevalence of lamb there, David added to the menu a hummus bowl topped with pomegranate-braised lamb shoulder. They also discovered an Israeli-made, gluten-free pita, which they now import frozen for the restaurants. Dobronsky is a stickler for authenticity, which is why the spices, tahini and chickpeas for the hummus are imported from Israel. As Mistie explains, “It’s like wine or coffee. Where it’s grown makes a big difference in flavor.”
The Cupertino eatery was the first one built from the ground up, so it most embodies Oren’s philosophy to serve casual fare in welcoming, elegant surroundings. Like the other restaurants, it features a chandelier over the communal table—only, this one is massive. With 6,087 pieces of Italian crystal, it took a worker seven days to assemble. All this for hummus? You bet. As David says: “We’re on a fun adventure to spread really good hummus around the world.”
Main Street Cupertino, 19419 Stevens Creek Blvd. 408.982.5237
Hours: Daily, 11AM-11PM
Hummus bowls, $9-$13; grilled entrees, $13-$15; salads, $9.75-$11
Israeli favorites, $12-$14; pita sandwiches, $9-$14; sides, $4.50-$12; desserts, $6
Originally published in the November issue of Silicon Valley