Last updated March 13th 2016
Big thanks to Secret Tel Aviv member Jeremy Alexander for his awesome restaurant recommendations!
I have created the Tel Aviv Food Guide based on my many visits to Tel Aviv. My taste in food may not match yours, however. For example, I designed this guide as an American who has lived in DC and New York, and I judge Israeli restaurants based in part on whether I can find similar food at home (if I can, it is less special). For example, I generally do not eat at steakhouses in Israel, which are prevalent in DC. And while I do not like Catit, it may be special for others.
Breakfast is one of the best meals in Israel. Not only is it the most important meal of the day for Israelis, but Israel has amazing baked goods. While many hotels offer free breakfast, I believe it is worth the 50 shekels or so to go out to breakfast.
1. Benedict (3 locations, one at Rothchild and Allenby, one at 171 Ben Yehuda, one in Hertzillya)- Benedict is a classic in Tel Aviv. It is open 24/7, and has pretty much every breakfast item. Meals include amazing hot bread baskets with Nutella, jelly and butter (which I combine in a hot roll to create what I call a “benedict sandwich.”) Recommendations: Pancakes (maybe the best I have ever had..get banana or white chocolate expresso); Philly Cheesesteak (amazing, with two eggs on top); eggs benedict.
2. Shine Coffee Shop (Shlomo Hamelach 38): I really love this place. It is a simple coffee shop that is always crowded. It is also owned by the owners of the best pizza shop in Tel Aviv. So what I like to do (which is not normal) is order their French Toast, which is AMAZING. Huge thick battered bread. I also get a small or half pizza on the side. Great coffee also.
3. Café XOHO (Gordon Street 17): A great little coffee shop with fresh and amazing food. The challah French toast and pancakes (they will customize a flavor for you) are both topped with fresh fruits. The bagels are New York quality, and they have a great egg and cheese sandwich. Amazing homemade pastries and muffins.
4. Landwer Café (locations all over Israel): I really like Landver. The food comes in large portions and the breakfast is solid. Great shakshuka. I personally had great schnitzel fingers with fries when I craved American food.
Lunch is a tough one. I am usually on the beach during this time. I also usually eat a big breakfast that lasts until dinner. Therefore, I am grouping snacks with lunch. This is a very important category given the importance of street food in Israel (shwarma).
1. Hakosem (shlomo hamelech 1, near Dizengoff Center): In my opinion, this is the best schwarma/falafel in the world. I personally order the “Laffa Schwarma,” which is schwarma meat, all the toppings you want (mango sauce, spicy sauce, fried eggplant, hummus) wrapped in Laffa bread (think naan bread). They will give you falafel while you wait in line. The staff is amazing. If you see the guy with the white hair making the schwarma, please tell him Jeremy from DC says hi. One of my favorite people in TLV.
2. Falafel Gabay (Bugrashov 25): Great Israeli food. Falafel and soup especially. I personally order the schnitzel in pita, which is chicken schnitzel in a pita with unlimited salads, hummus, etc.
3. Falafel/Sabich Frishman (At Dizengoff and Frishman): Two small stands by the same owner. Known as the best sabich (eggplant and egg in pita) and falafel in TLV. I love both. The sabich is more famous.
4. Schwarma Place (big green letters, corner of Frishman and Dizengoff): Great schwarma and Israeli food. I always order the schwarma plate.
5. Abu Hasan/Ali Karavan: Abu Hasan is the most famous hummus in Israel. They have 3 locations in Jaffa. I did not think it was that great, but I also only had it “to go.” I would go early and try to sit at one of the locations.
6. Port Said (Har Sinai 5): A cool bar, owned by Eyal Shani (more on him below). But they have great food. Start with some of the best challah in the world dipped in t’hina. Order the chicken salad sandwich on challah or the minute steak. Finish with one of the best French toasts in TLV.
7. Haj Kahil (18 Raziel st., Jaffa, at the entrance to downtown Jaffa): Very solid schwarma. A good place to go if it is a Jewish holiday and most businesses in TLV are closed. Get the lamb.
1.Ha Salon (8 Ma’Avar HaYavok Street, VERY HARD TO FIND): A restaurant that I consider the best dining experience in the world. It is only open Wednesday and Thursday nights, where Eyal Shani, one of the most famous chefs in Israel, puts on a show. Every ingredient is stacked in front of you and the kitchen is open. Everything is cooked from scratch. The restaurant, as the night progresses, turns into a party with loud music and dancing on tables (but you can just sit and watch). The food is spectacular. Try the fresh fish cooked in a hot pot with tomatoes. Try the pizzas. Fresh fish and chips from 3 years ago was one of the best dishes I have had. The free bread is a veggie focaccia pizza with crème fraiche. Spectacular all around!
2. Abraxas North (Lilienblum St 40): If you cannot make it to Ha Salon (or you want more of it), Abraxas North (open every night) is a good bet. Similar food, very original (cannot get in the U.S.). Great pizza. I tend to order dishes wrapped in a pita or the hot fish pot. Fun to sit at the bar where the bartenders will give chasers and fresh fruit.
3 Suzanna (Shabazi St 9): Israeli casual food in a great atmosphere. Start with one of their amazing pastries (sweet and savory). The chicken and fruit one was spectacular. I ordered the lamb kebab, which was excellent. You sit outside in Neve Tzedek, a great neighborhood. The dessert is also nice (I ordered biscuit cake). The birds do poop on you.
4. Thai House (Bograshov St 8): Thai in TLV? Yes. Do it. The place is spectacular. Huge portions and great quality food. This may sound juvenile, but the sweet and sour chicken is amazing. So are the noodle dishes (pad see ew). The appetizers are solid as well (fried sea bass lettuce wraps, spring rolls). Sometimes I go twice in one trip. Very hard to get a reservation day of. Very good atmosphere as well.
5. Adora (Ben Yehuda 226): This was the surprise of my last trip. It is an upscale restaurant but not overly fancy (see Catit below). Started with the foie gras baklava, which was one of the best dishes I have ever had. The entrees (Sea bass) were well presented, large and great. 2 free great desserts on the house as well. Highly recommend.
6. Shila (Ben Yehuda 182): A hip, crowded and popular TLV spot. It borders on “I can get this at home,” but it is a very solid choice. Lots of fresh fish choices and raw fish (e.g., Carpaccio) appetizers.
7. Zepra (96 Yigal alon): Upscale and very good Asian fusion. Think Nobu/Morimoto. It is food you can get in New York, but just as good or better. The black cod is great, as are all of the apps (pork buns, spring roll lettuce wraps, scallops, dumplings). Ask for Rona, the best manager in town.
8. Night Kitchen (Lilinblum 43): A bar/restaurant, with great food. We ordered the chefs table, which was a combination of many dishes. Apps included many fresh fish Carpaccios; next came gnocchi, octopus and sashimi, followed by bread salad and fish and meat entrees. Dessert is famous there, crème brulee balls. Very good overall. I recommend.
9. Coffee Bar (13 Yad Harotzim): Very popular and solid restaurant for a meal between casual and upscale.
10. Café Noir (Ahad Ha’am 43): Nice French bistro. Known as the best schnitzel in TLV. The veal schnitzel was good, not great. But I hear the chicken is the best. The banana tart dessert is the best dessert in TLV. I went twice.
11. Room Service (Dizengoff 245): Cool atmosphere, casual food, good prices, superb desserts. Must try the large banana dessert in the big glass.
In Jerusalem, I recommend Machneyuda, a hip market restaurant with upscale, great food. In Mehane Yehuda, the market, there is amazing food, including famous rugelach from Marzipan.
In Eilat, one of my favorite chefs in Israel, Lior Raphael, runs a restaurant Hamasger 5 (that is the address and name). Best meal I had in Israel. Only open until this April. The Pork Schnitzel, with two eggs on top, came with homemade tartar sauce and béarnaise sauce. The blueberry pie was AMAZING, as was the foie gras on a puff pastry app. The burger is a hit (I did not try it). Israelis should make sure Lior opens a new restaurant soon.
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