This is the second in my new “Where to eat in…” series. I’m not claiming these are “the best” restaurants in Tel Aviv-Yafo; simply put, they are the places where I like to eat.
I’ve categorised them as either a Must Do, Hidden Gem or Personal Fave.
Must Do: Jaffa – Shuk Hapishpeshim
As well as its oranges, the oldest part of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Jaffa is an ancient port known for its association with the biblical story of Jonah as well as the Greek myth of Andromeda and Perseus. These days, its better known for its flea market (Shuk Hapishpishim) selling Middle Eastern antiques and assorted tat, alongside local designer boutiques, hipster coffee shops and restaurants. Popular places include Onza, Raisa, Jericho, Faruk Ba Shuk and Puua.
Onza – Fennel Salad with parsley, pecan & citrus vinaigrette
Onza – Su Borek Yufka, spinach, kashkaval cheese & herbs
Onza – Vegan Pide
Raisa – Jerusalem Bagel with hot carrot cream
Raisa – Artichoke Salad with labane, tomatoes, olives & nuts
Raisa – Fried Cauliflower, black tahini, pepperoncini & sumac
Raisa – Lamb Cigar with ras al hanout
Jericho – Frena Bread, tomatoes & tahini
Jericho – Taramosolata
Jericho – Saltwater Fish Tartare, watermelon, feta & za'atar
Jericho – Beef Tartare, salsa verde, pine nuts & egg yolk
Faruk BaShuk – Msabaha with tahini and pickled lemon sauce
Faruk BaShuk – Laffa Taboon Bread with olives & hyssop tapenade
Faruk BaShuk – Saltwater Fish Tartar with labneh & pine nuts
Puaa – Majadera Rice
Whilst in Jaffa, people really should visit the iconic Abouelafia Bakery (Yefet 7). Established in 1879 and open 24 hours, 7 days a week – the star dish is the cheese filled sambusac (samosa). Dr. Shakshuka is another must too.
Abouelafia Bakery – Sambusac
Dr. Shakshuka – Shakshuka
Must Do: Jaffa Port– The Old Man and the Sea (Hangar 1, Kedem St)
Plate for plate, the food at the iconic The Old Man and the Sea overlooking the ships of Jaffa’s port may not be the most gastronomic to be found in the city but the location, atmosphere, value for money and theatre make this a must on any tourist’s itinerary.
The Old Man and the Sea – Salads
As soon as you are seated, the whirling dervish waiters arrive and deftly dispense a tray of twenty or so ‘salads’, plus hummus, falafel, freshly baked breads and a pitcher of house lemonade. Then, orders are taken. They serve meat but in this portside location, the grilled fish is surely the only real option?
The Old Man & the Sea – Levrak (Sea Bass)
The Old Man & the Sea – Palamida
The Old Man & the Sea – Gilt Head Sea Bream (Denis)
Just up from the port is Abu Hasan/ Ali Karavan (Ha-Dolfin 1) one of Israel’s oldest, most famous and best places to eat hummus. Delicious.
Jaffa - Ali Karavan Humus
Must Do: Ha Basta (HaShomer 4)
A stone’s throw from HaCarmel Market, HaBasta is a farm-to-table restaurant with a daily changing handwritten menu that always excites. Service is a typical Tel Avivian laidback affair.
Ha Basta – Eggplant & Labane
Ha Basta – Yellowtail Carpaccio
Ha Basta – Crudo
Ha Basta – Grouper Head
Ha Basta – Grouper Neck
Ha Basta – Crabs in the oven
Ha Basta – Okra pakora
Shuk Ha'Carmel – Boureka
Shuk Ha'Carmel – Humus
Shuk Ha'Carmel – Druze Bread
Must Do: Sabich Frishman & Falafel Frishman (Frishman 42 & 44)
There are falafel joints and a fair few sabich stands all over Tel Aviv but these two, on the corner of Frishman and Dizengoff are iconic, if not necessarily the best.
For those that don’t know, sabich is a pita filled snack of Iraqi origin, consisting of fried aubergine, amba, boiled egg, cabbage, feta, hummus, parsley, pickles, potato and tehina sauce.
The fried potato roll (added like the flake on a 99) is what makes the falafel stand out from others in the city.
Must Do: Jasmino (Allenby 97 - opposite the Great Synagogue,)
Like the sabich and falafel stands, there are an embarrassment of shawarma and kebab kiosks all over the city. Although only open for a couple of years, Jasmino has already established itself as one of the best. As such, be prepared to queue, weather you arrive at noon when they open for lunch or into the small hours when they close.
Jasmino – Spleen, Kidneys & Liver in Pita
Hidden Gem: HaTikva Market – Saluf Yemenite Bakery (HaTikva St)
When in a foreign city, I always make a beeline for the markets to soak up the sights, sounds and smells. Whilst Ha’Carmel or Levinsky markets will be the first such port of call for most visitors, HaTikvais undoubtedly the more authentic option. A great melting pot, Iraqi, Georgian, Syrian and Iranian flavours abound but it’s the Saluf Yemenite Bakerythat has the biggest queues for their traditional breads – kubaneh, salouf, jahnun, lahuh and malawah.
Saluf Bakery HaTikva – Kubaneh Bread
Saluf Bakery HaTikva – Lahoh Bread
Hidden Gem: Romano (Derech Jaffa 9)
Part of Chef Eyal Shani’s Port Said stable, Romano is a hipsters’ paradise that comes alive in the evenings. It’s a hidden gem because it’s quite literally hidden at the end of a commercial courtyard behind a wicket gate. Partly due to its outré translations but mainly due to its deliciousness, the Romano menu is one of my favourites in the city. Quirkily, many dishes come served on chef Shani’s characteristic paper bags and cardboard platters.
Romano – Focaccia with veggies & freshly whipped tomato as an escort
Romano – Figs Carpaccio
Romano – Sea Fish Shawarma, herbs, yoghurt & tomato foam
Romano – A bag full of golden fish with real aioli & something spicy
Personal Fave: Abraxas North (Lilienblum 40)
With its hip, laidback vibe with the best and freshest ingredients, typifies Chef Eyal Shani’s and Tel Aviv’s style. It’s a cool spot at both lunchtime and in the evening. Booking is recommended, but if you can’t get in, pop around the corner to their sister restaurant Port Saidfor a similar yet pared down menu.
North Abraxas – Sourdough, creme fraiche wrapped in tomato seeds
North Abraxas – Spinach Stems melting into butter
North Abraxas – Arab Cabbage, melting into lamb broth & crème fraiche
North Abraxas – Beef Carpaccio with tomato seeds & olive oil
North Abraxas – Butchers Cut grilled with tomato seeds & olive oil
North Abraxas – Golden Shawarma on a lafa, tossed with herbs
North Abraxas – Baby Cauliflower melting in its own leaves
North Abraxas – Lamb Kebab on yoghurt & a salad of herbs
North Abraxas – Roasted Scorpion Fish with vegetables, butter & wine
North Abraxas – Hraime in a stormy sauce of 5 desert-born tomatoes
North Abraxas – Spicy platter composed of four different types of spicy, that gives the meal a swirl
North Abraxas – Silver Hake Kebab in a stormy sauce of desert-born tomatoes
Port Said – Beetroot Carpaccio
Port Said – Freekeh, herbs & yoghurt
Port Said – Herring, fresh vegetables, créme fraiche & egg
Port Said – Bread salad, chunks of toasted bread, tomatoes, salad & herbs from the mountains of Jerusalem
Port Said – Chicken Liver with tahini, grilled potatoes & spring onion
Personal Fave: Saluf & Sons (Nahalat Binyamin St 80)
Located near Levinsky Market, I first visited the Saluf & Sons for their Yemeni breads last October and liked it enough to return. This time we went back 3 times! For vibe, friendliness (we’re easily won over by free shots of arak) and good food, it’s become one of our faves. Fluffy and light on the inside with a crisp shell, the kubanne bread is the thing of dreams.
Saluf & Sons – Baked Melawach with hardboiled egg & salsa
Saluf & Sons – Kubahne with salsa, tehina & spicy sour cream
Saluf & Sons – Jachnun with tomato salad & hardboiled egg
Saluf & Sons – Lachuh with tomato, egg za'atar & sesame
Saluf & Sons – Meatballs with peas
Personal Fave: M25 (Simtat HaCarmel 30)
Once you have been in Tel Aviv for a few days, eating falafel, humus and seafood, you may start to get a hankering for meat. Owned and operated by the Ha’Carmel butchers Meat Market, M25 is nirvana for all meat lovers.
The daily chalkboard menu only appears in Hebrew so the best way to choose if to take a look at the meat counter. Saying that, the staff also speak good English but may not always point out that there are often offally delights available such as spine or brain.
The smoked shawarma is fantastic but, whatever you order, also find room for the arayes! Oh, and the crack pie too, if you have a sweet tooth.
M25 – Arayes
M25 – Smoked Shawarma
M25 – Prime Rib, Flank Steak Kidneys, Spine
Another place we discovered on this visit that serve decent arayes is Chef Meir Adoni’s ‘street food’ restaurant, Dunya (Ben Yehuda 89). Definitely somewhere we’ll return, when we next visit.
Dunya – Veal & Lamb Arayes wrapped in charcoal-roasted pita bread, eggplant, amba, tahini & market salad
Dunya – Charred Fillet Mullet Souvlaki with lima bean cream, hawaij, cumin, baharat, grilled vegetables, tbeha & amba