When one thinks of Israel, amazing food generally comes to mind. The country offers a unique mixture of Israeli, Jewish, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisine. Even if you’re already a fan of hummus and falafel, your taste buds are in for a treat if you get a chance to taste the local food. The variety is plentiful, and the healthy options are on point, so you can indulge guilt-free and try it all! To familiarize yourself with the unique food, be sure to read Israeli Eye Candy: Traditional Cuisine & Lessons From a Local Chef.
TEL AVIV MARKETS
A good place to start is to explore the local markets, where you can find everything from fresh bread to exotic fruits, spices, and souvenirs.
HaCarmel St, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Try to arrive at Carmel market in the morning before the crowds appear, to find the freshest fruit and baked goods. You will find a variety of fruit such as pomegranate seeds, and a whole cupful for only 5 Shekel or about $1.50 USD! You’ll find fresh figs and sabres, a yellow and green cacti-looking fruit with a slight starfruit and mango flavor. Piles of pastry will line the market corridors containing sesame bagel bread rings, kanafeh, fried dough, pistachio-filled phyllo, and so much more.
36, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
This indoor market is lined with almost 30 small restaurants, shops, and food vendors. It’s definitely a destination to add to your list while strolling down renown Rothschild Boulevard. If you’re not able to make it to the outdoor markets, fresh fruit can be found here as well.
TEL AVIV RESTAURANTS
Falafel Pita Place
Mikveh Israel St, Tel Aviv
As exact coordinates were not found online, this restaurant is located on Mikveh Israel St just down the road from Loveat at the corner of Mikveh Israel St and Barzilai St. If you walk east towards Levontin St, it will be on your left. Israel is known to be pricey, but food was quite affordable here, getting a falafel filled pita with a package of fries and two fill-your-own condiment and sauce containers for around $5 USD. As you can see, there were many fresh toppings and sauces to choose from!
Mikveh Israel St 1, Tel Aviv
Sabich is a Mizrahi Jewish pita sandwich filled with fried eggplant, boiled sliced potato, hard boiled eggs, tahini, vegetables, and hot sauce. It’s a favorite breakfast or grab-and-go street food. There are debates on which stand makes the best sabich, and each place has their own special twist to the traditional dish. Even if you’re not enthused about eating eggplant, you’ll want to give this a try!
Olei Zion Street 17, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Leon bakery is rather quaint, but carries all of the quintessential Israeli bakery you must have on your list to try. You will find traditional khala, sweet white pretzel bread, and the more well-known honey soaked baklava made with flaky phyllo. Kanafeh is another sweet treat in addition to sesame seed covered savory bureka filled with cheese.
הבימה, Sderot Tarsat 4, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Barzilai St פינת מקווה ישראל 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
The first location of Loveat is characterized by a lovely hidden garden in the back. The second location is a great spot to grab food and drinks, host a meeting, or work solo on your laptop. Many coffee and tea drinks are available, vegetarian food selections, and the rugelach crescent pastry with layers of chocolate filling is so good you should probably order two right away.
Ahad Ha’Am St 8, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Tali’s is not only a café, but connected to a storefront filled with home décor and merchandise. A cooler full of homemade vegan puddings, ornate fruit and nut bars, and a fresh juice bar are some of the healthy food options available here.
Lilienblum St 3, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Neroli’s is initially disguised as a health food store, but also contains a full-service kitchen with premade truffles and protein bites in addition to the large vegan and raw menu. The vegan pizza with raw seeded crust and cashew cheese, plus the display of treats will keep you coming back for more.
153,, HaYarkon St 145, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Aroma is a great stop on your stroll along the sea, just feet from the beachfront boardwalk. There are many offerings including a vegan breakfast with veggie patties, sweet potato, avo spread, roasted peppers, and more! This dish hit the spot after hiking up to Masada for sunrise.
Shabazi St 9, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
This restaurant has a huge outdoor seating area and was extremely busy with locals enjoying dinner and curious street cats alike, perched at a safe distance, content and enjoying the ambiance. The falafel was cooked to perfection and the sweet almond drink was also interesting to try.
Dolfin St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Abu Hassan is known as the best hummus in Jaffa and the long lines prove just that. To accommodate as many hummus-hungry humans as possible, tables are often shared among strangers, no feline friends this time. Conversation is at a minimum, for the need to come up for air between spoonfuls of hummus takes precedence. I still think about that hummus.
Ahad Ha’Am St 6, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
You’ll never have trouble finding vegan options in Tel Aviv, and Meshek Baszilav definitely exceeded expectations. The drinks even make you feel healthier, like the purple rain beet, carrot, apple, ginger, lemon, and gin drink. Bean cream filled zucchini blossoms and the ghastly good gnocchi with cashew cheese and mushrooms were also favorites. Take a look here at the creative take on traditional Israeli havla made into a vegan tahini ice cream covered in espresso. Go there, eat lot, and don’t look at the bill until you return home from your trip. I’m not suggesting that it’s terribly expensive, rather providing a warning that you’ll probably want to order everything on the menu!
Sha’arei Nikanor St 25, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Keen 60 provided my first introduction to food in Tel Aviv and they definitely set the bar high. We started with a variety of appetizers including fried cauliflower with tahini, tabuleh salad, and hummus so good I’d give it a tie with Abu Hassan. A local fish of the day is offered, guaranteeing something freshly caught from the shore.
Lilienblum St 40, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Dinner and a show is what you’ll find at Chef Eyal Shani’s North Abraxas restaurant. Chefs and wait staff enjoyed entertaining while offering guests a shot of Arak liquor on the house, with tunes blasting away. The stellar simplicity of the dishes and presentation will still make you think, how do they do it? The roasted baby cauliflower was melt-in-your-mouth good and the homemade bread and cream made you forget you’ll pay for it later. For a unique culinary experience, make time to try North Abraxas.
FLORENTIN 55, TEL AVIV
Chef Lior Deboshi runs a restaurant nestled in the Florentin area, full of feline friends and street art. He makes a flavorful stuffed and roasted red pepper, with fresh bread and tahini on hand. The atmosphere is quite lively, and if you’re up for it, you might be tempted to twirl around the dance floor to old tunes from another time.
Rothschild Blvd 45, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
To conquer an ice cream craving be sure to stop in at Leggenda, that also has you covered for vegan gelato options.
JERUSALEM MARKETS & FOOD
In the Jewish quarter of old town Jerusalem, near the old Roman ruins, you’ll find an enchanting market called the Cardo. The Cardo is one of the oldest streets in Jerusalem, dating back to Roman time over 1,500 years ago according to Israel Inside Out. The distinct pillars begin at Damascus Gate and one section has been redeveloped into a shopping market where you can purchase anything from souvenirs to fresh produce and spices.
One find at the market was green za’atar spice made from wild thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac powder. This is used for dipping with olive oil, but unlike traditional practice where you mix the oil and the spices together, it’s best eaten by taking a piece of bread, dipping it in olive oil, then dipping it directly into the herb and seed mixture.
Damascus Gate Old Town
Venturing into old town Jerusalem through the Damascus Gate greets visitors with narrow streets filled with vendors, shops, and sweet pastries as far as the eye can see. Be sure to try some of the sweets such as kanafeh and baklava pictured below.
Hydeme Falafel House
Damascus Gate Fork
When in Jerusalem you must try Fred’s homemade falafel pita sandwiches topped with fries and secret sauce. The little shop is located at the Damascus gate fork, easily recognized by the consistent line of famished falafel-loving folks eager to get their fix.
There are so many amazing food options, markets, and restaurants in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that the above only gives a glimpse of the rich and multi-cultural Israeli cuisine. To learn more about the specific dishes, be sure to read the article Israeli Eye Candy: Traditional Cuisine & Lessons From a Local Chef. I hope you are encouraged to visit Israel and try the local food, as you’ll surely have an amazing experience just as I did!