Aviv Hummus Bar owner David Nussbaum mixes a big bowl of hummus. He says the recipe and technique is all his.
Aviv Hummus Bar owner David Nussbaum mixes a big bowl of hummus. He says the recipe and technique is all his.

Hummus exists in Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants around Seattle as a side or appetizer. New Capitol Hill restaurateur David Nussbaum is spreading the word that it can be the main event.

“It’s not just the dish, it’s what comes with it,” said Nussbaum, who opened Aviv Hummus Bar on 15th Avenue East in Capitol Hill in early September. “In Israel, hummus is a way of life.”

Nussbaum’s parents are from Israel, and his family has tried to make it back once a year since he was young.

“Just eating the food over there, there’s nothing like it,” he said. “So, coming back to the states, there’s this void you just can’t fill.”

Hummus in Israel just means chickpea, Nussbaum said, and the legume is the highlight of the dish, not a ton of garlic and spices. That’s what his recipe is — simple. And also something of a secret.

“I’m the only one who knows how to make the hummus,” he said. “…It’s my secret, it’s my technique.”

Customers can order hummus with a variety of toppings, including falafel, shawarma-spiced ground beef, and sautéed mushrooms and onions, or order falafel in a pita. There is also masabcha, which is hummus with half-mashed chickpeas, garlic and lemon added to the mix.

“Hummus with falafel does sell the most,” Nussbaum said, “but the runner-up is the beef dish that is seasoned with shawarma (basar).”

Every hummus dish comes with some brined pickles from Israel and an Israeli-style pita, which is thicker, rounder and fluffier than what people might find in a gyro shop.

“I spent a lot of time over there, and so I’m bringing over everything that I learned,” Nussbaum said.

Aviv conjures thoughts of Tel Aviv, said Nussbaum, but it’s also his middle name. It means spring, he said, “which kind of invokes freshness and new beginnings.”

This is Nussbaum’s first restaurant, having worked in various kitchens in Seattle and Bellevue for much of his adult life.

“I figured it was time to be my own boss,” he said, adding he had the idea for the hummus bar when he was 27; he’s now approaching 32.

Aviv opened a little later than expected, Nussbaum said, but part of that was because he built the hummus bar and tables himself, with the help of his father.

“We were in here sawing the tables and doing it all,” he said, adding his dad was frying falafel on opening day while his mother waited tables; they’re now on vacation in Israel.

Nussbaum said he’s a little busy this year.

Aviv is located at 107 15th Ave. E. Find out more about Aviv at avivhummusbar.com.