A bar for valley girls (bar review)

Jerusalem Post, Billboard; September 29, 2006

‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ The most happening bar-lounge in Emek Hefer, the rural valley just north of Netanya, takes its name from this famous cinematic phrase of The Princess Bride, which follows Princess Buttercup’s love for a blonde farm boy. While you may not find any blonde princes or princesses at Inigo Montoya, chances are you’ll find strapping Israeli farmboys and farmgirls, since Inigo Montoya was created to serve the outlaying farm communities, kibbutzim and villages that dot the valley.

One such farmboy is co-owner Ziv Rabinovich, who grew up in a moshav nearby. A pioneer of the nightlife scene in Emek Hefer, he began his career renting out a hangar in the woods for weekend parties for soldiers. Lechet, as the place became known, soon became a full-fledged party production house. With the expertise and connections he acquired, Rabinovich and his partners decided to open a bar that could rival those in Tel Aviv.

‘We knew there was a lack of bars of this caliber in this area,’ he explains. By ‘this style,’ he refers to pumping music, invested decor, a professionally run bar, good-looking bartenders, selection by age and lots of sex appeal. Rabinovich and his partners researched bars in Herzliya and Tel Aviv (if you can call partying research) to transplant cosmopolitan standards to a sleepy town whose nightlife had hitherto consisted mostly of kibbutz cafes and mom-and-pop pubs.

Inigo Montoya just celebrated its first anniversary on September 15 with a wild party attracting the ‘who’s who’ of Emek Hefer and celebs including singer Shiri Maimon, actor Ofer Shechter and A Star is Born winner Jacko Eisenberg, showing Tel Aviv that Emek Hefer knows how to party. The entire portico was lavishly decorated, and a nearby hall was rented out to make room for the 2,000 partiers who came to celebrate this local nightlife achievement and dance the night away to well-known trance ensembles such as Astral Projection.

The place is packed every night with locals and students living in the area. Bar reservations are recommended, unless you don’t mind rubbing against some well-dressed farmgirls or farmboys in the aisles. The interior brick design is dark yet warm and friendly, meant to mimic a medieval castle. But there are no medieval norms at Inigo Montoya. Locals come to get wasted and perhaps leave with a Prince or Princess Charming.

One would be hard-pressed to find English speakers in Inigo Montoya (or other bars in the area for that matter), mostly because Emek Hefer is home largely to sabras. That’s part of its appeal. Inigo Montoya is for nightlife adventurers who are tired of Tel Aviv conventions and seek a night out with small-town, homegrown Israeli partiers.

Despite its exclusivity, Inigo Montoya is easily accessible. It’s located at the Yonnai Junction, on the second floor of a shopping center that serves as a popular rest stop for Tel Aviv-Haifa commuters. More and more Tel Avivians are making the half-hour trek to Inigo Montoya for its farmlike coziness, earthy abandon, quality food and rural clientele.

Hopefully, it won’t get overrun by too many out-of- towners.

Em HaDerech Mall; Yonnai Junction
Open daily from 9 p.m.
Ages: 23+ girls; 25+ boys
Music and specials: Sun: Israeli (50% off Sushi), Mon: Hip hop (20% off wine), Tues: Rock/alternative (20% off beer); Thurs-Sat: Freestyle
No cover

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