A City Tasting Tour: Tel Aviv Food Guide

Tel Aviv

A City Tasting Tour: Tel Aviv Food Guide

Explore the old markets and side streets, as well as the bars and delis being reinvented by young chefs and entrepreneurs.
09 December, 2013

Tel Aviv is a city of tantalising food gems. I’m getting used to the reaction from locals whenever I mention that I am heading to Tel Aviv for a few days. For Israelis, Tel Aviv seems to embody a mythical allure – modern, liberal, non-stop fun. An anomaly in a country of cultural contrasts and supposed internal divide, Tel Aviv is home to the artist, the vagabond, the business- savvy and the beach bum.

To a visitor, it is a quiet miracle that Tel Aviv functions as it does, almost as if by its own will and certainly on its own terms. It is also a city of great food and a burgeoning, modern culinary scene.

Rothschild Boulevard

The length of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv is dotted along the centre with espresso kiosks, pastry and sandwich dens and fresh juice bars. Restaurants, bars and gelato outlets line the edges. Runners, roller bladers, dog walkers and pram- pushers swerve past the coffee crowd, and in any given moment you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a lush arrondissement in tree-lined Paris or Barcelona. Considered a heritage site due to the number of Bauhaus buildings present, it is worth taking a walk in the late afternoon along Rothschild Boulevard, said to be the city’s most upmarket, and stopping for a drink and snack at the kiosks in the middle of the road.

Markets

The spice and dried goods market in Florentin stretches over a number of blocks and is a reflection of the mix of people who have settled in the area. Iranians, Yemenites, North Africans and Eastern Europeans form the fabric of the market. You need to weave your way along the streets and side streets, touching, tasting, buying small samples to try before you return for the mixes and blends you want to take home. There has been a slow gentrification, as is the case in most old areas, with shops revamped for a younger generation’s tastes. Vegan friendly and gluten-free versions of products are making an appearance. One thing you should not miss, is a tour with passionate food guide (‘Sherpa’, she prefers to be called), Inbal Baum of Delicious Israel.

This loud and lively fresh produce market is a great way to observe the culinary habits of locals. It’s a mix of young and old patrons, some of whom travel far for the freshest Shabbat dinner ingredients. Coffee and beer bars dot the market and provide needed relief for weary feet.

Must visit: the Yemenite Quarter for the hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Ask around for Irit, a fun and enterprising woman who makes a mean pan of spicy shakshuka (eggs in tomato sauce) served with lavash bread.

Falafel

a self-service restaurant with outdoors seating, this is reputed to be the best in the city. Try the bowl of fresh, herby falafel with hummus and a shwarma with falafel and toppings.

Hummus

It’s well known that hummus is a huge deal in Israel and families and friends have known to feud over loyalties.

Comes highly recommended for plates of masabacha- silky folds of smooth hummus topped with warm chickpeas and olive oil.

Breakfast

Manta Ray is loved by locals and visitors, with an ideal location, just meters from the Mediterranean sea. Book for breakfast outdoors and enjoy it slowly as sunbathers and revelers gather on the beach adjacent.

A budget breakfast option that is open 24 hours a day, few things could be more appealing.

It’s the posh option for ladies who lunch and private parties. I recommend it for pre or post breakfast coffee on the balcony, to people-watch. The main event can be a bit disappointing, but the pastries are excellent.

Arab food

Lauded for the Iranian food, the mains are enormous so pace yourself if you order a mezze selection for starters. Service can be brisk.

Persian canteen run by the same family for generations. It’s packed at lunch time. The stews, soups and braised wild herbs are popular.

Food with a Vibe

Small and cosy, with a bar dining option, food is simple but excellent. If lamb is on the menu, order it. Worth booking in advance.  

A restaurant bar that serves excellent Georgian food and manages to do so while maintaining a vibrant party atmosphere. It does get loud. Book a place at the crowded bar and hang onto it.

Cafés

Located at the Jaffa flea market, Puah is decorated with a collection of bric-a-brac from the surrounding market. It’s the perfect place for brunch between browsing.

Young, hip café with a vegan menu and inventive drinks.