For the longest time I would drive into the shopping center off East Twain and Swenson, see the Haifa and think the kosher restaurant was closed.
After all, you couldn’t see in through the reflective windows and there were quite a few abandoned stores in the neighborhood that includes an Ethiopian eatery, hair stylist, mini post office, 7-Eleven and a dollar shop.
“A lot of people do think we are closed, but we do a big restaurant and catering business, especially when there are conventions in Las Vegas,” said Haifa’s proprietor Raita Tibi. “I love it here and the location.”
Haifa quietly continues a rich tradition of kosher deli restaurants in Las Vegas. It’s a lot different than famed Carnegie’s at The Mirage or the one-time locals favorite Celebrity Deli off Maryland Parkway and Flamingo that has long since shut down.
But make no mistake, Haifa is, in today’s sports jargon, “a fashionable selection,” especially to casinos.
“We are like three minutes from the Wynn and Venetian and close by LVH, Hard Rock and Bellagio,” said Tibi, who was born in Tahiti and had to learn the Jewish way of life when arriving in Las Vegas. “We get a lot of people who come here at night, and our business really picks up when there are conventions in town at Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands.”
Haifa has actually been located at the East Twain site for some 30 years and the Tibi family took it over in 2006.
“We are glad to be a part of the Jewish community,” said Raita, who remarried after her husband, David, passed away two years ago. “We specialize in kosher and Mediterranean food. Our chicken is a big favorite.”
Once you step inside Haifa, it really doesn’t have the look or feel of a kosher deli. There are no counters, bagel sightings, menu signage or salamis hanging from the ceiling, Rather, there’s a very roomy area with pristine marble floors and plenty of attractive/comfortable tables and seating.
And while the normal deli experience tends to be noisy and active, here it is peaceful and conducive to nice conversation.
“When I first came to Las Vegas, the tall buildings on the Strip scared me,” Raita said. “They looked fake, like something you would see on a matchbook cover.”
Business is steady with anywhere from 3 to 15 people working the restaurant, depending on the time. Business hours are six days a week, normally from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Fridays closing time is 2 p.m.
“A lot of people ask for Mediterranean, but we do carry hot dogs, burgers, pastrami and French fries,” she said. “We always want more business from everyone.”
So why the dark windows?
“To keep the sun out,” Raita said laughing. “No, we want the people to come. And they do.”
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].