Israeli cuisine has recently gained popularity around the world with Israeli chefs opening international outlets like Palomar in London, Hamiznon in Melbourne and Balagan in Paris. These fashionable restaurants, characterized as fun and vibrant, provide a small taste of what it’s really like in Israel. The establishments on the following list–ranging from fine dining to dancing-on-the-bar to local street food stands–provide something more than good food: they provide an experience, one you can only get in Israel.
Bar, Gastropub, Restaurant, Contemporary, Mediterranean, Israeli, Fusion
Famous Israeli chef Eyal Shani is known for his quirky passion for food, eccentric philosophy, and for serving some of the best dishes in Israel. All of his establishments are fun, casual, full of alcohol, and simple. Yes, the food, however articulate the menu may describe it, is simple; made with the finest ingredients, and cooked to perfection. Hasalon, hebrew for “the living room” is not a place for a quiet night out; the music is loud, the open kitchen is loud, and at some point you are bound to be dancing drunk on the bar and, you guessed it, be loud. Open only two night a week, this is a place with an electric atmosphere, and the ultimate mix between fine dining and a house party.
Set in the heart of Machine-Yuda market in Jerusalem, the 60 year old restaurant is as close to traditional home cooking as it gets. The kitchen is full of huge pots on burning gas stoves containing hearty dishes from the Israeli-Arab home kitchen such as Kubbah, couscous, bean soup, stuffed vegetables with meat and rice, and many more. Dining at one of these gas stove establishments, or Azura in particular, is a definite must for any visitor to Israel.
Named after Hemingway’s novel, the Old Man and the Sea in Jaffa port serves some of the best fish you can find in Israel. It would be hard to make it to your main course hungry as upon sitting down, your table will start filling up with appetizers served to anyone ordering a main course, and endlessly refilled. There are 23 different salads, falafels, pita bread, and of course lemonade. One of the most satisfying meals you can have, come hungry and see if you manage to finish your delicious fish before you fill up!
Machneyuda has regained itself quite the name since its chefs opened successful restaurants in London and Paris. However, nothing can compare to the buzzy atmosphere in the Jerusalem outlet. Being a market restaurant, it offers seasonal daily menus that change according to the best offerings at the market that day. There are also some staple dishes that simply cannot be ignored. Opt for the Chef’s menu; it’s pricey at 295₪ (approximately $83) per person, but you will be seated at a bar across from the open kitchen, can discuss with the chef your likes and dislikes, do a shot together, and will not be disappointed.
You know how breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, at this Tel Aviv restaurant, open 24 hours a day, you will always be greeted with ‘good morning’. With several outlets across the country, the menu offers many different kinds of breakfasts from around the world, like steak and eggs, Croque Madame, English breakfast, breakfast tacos, shakshouka and more, served throughout the day. The restaurant is usually full, even at very odd hours, but especially on weekend mornings. If you ever fancy a pancake or eggs Benedict at an odd hour, this is the place to go.
As the name suggests, OCD is about perfection. There are 19 seats around an open kitchen/bar, from which the chefs serve a tasting menu experience to all diners at the same time. The idea behind OCD is to encourage diners to keep an open mind and try new things, as well as to create interaction between the kitchen and the different parties. You have to book your seats in advance and take into consideration that there is no menu, and the price is fixed at 315₪ (US$89) for dinner and 180₪ (US$51) for brunch, available on one Friday of every month. Dietary limitations will be taken into consideration when advised at the time of booking, however, on-the-spot changes cannot be made.
Perhaps Tel Aviv’s favourite falafel place, Hakosem – Hebrew for ‘the wizard‘ – is the place to get your Israeli street food fix. Serving hummus, Israeli salad, falafel, sabich, shawarma and shakshouka, you can try all kinds of Israeli street foods in this favourite spot with locals. Prepare yourselves though: a meal like that requires a Shantz, which is Hebrew slang for an afternoon nap.
There may be plenty of whisky bars around the world, but none quite like this one. It’s situated in a conserved underground temple structure that also served as a winery in the 19th century, and a secret army base until recently. Another special thing about this particular whisky bar, besides the incredible range of over 1000 different bottles of whisky, is that it’s completely Kosher. Religious and observant visitors can also enjoy the variety of drinks and the great menu, which was designed especially to accompany and complement the whisky and whisky-based cocktails.
EatWith is a communal dining initiative that connects local hosts with foodies from all around the world. In Israel, and Tel Aviv in particular, it has become a popular option for foodies looking for something new. The variety of events include famous Israeli chefs who open their homes, amateur chefs, couple chefs who love cooking together. There are also many kinds of menus: pastry making, vegan Vietnamese, pork and whisky feasts, Indian cuisine… The meals are supervised to ensure you will get top quality food, always in a nice setting, and enjoy the company of new people who love to explore food, just like you!
If you happen to come across a sign in Israel that says Druze Pita (פיתה דרוזית), STOP! This is one local delicacy you don’t want to miss. This street food flatbread may be familiar to you as láfa, which is the flatbread Shawarma is sometimes placed in. This type of flatbread is traditionally baked on a round Tabun oven and eaten with labana hand-made cheese, zaatar, and taboule salad. Usually sold on street stands along main roads, it can also be found in traditional food markets across the country, and in some less traditional stalls, like in Sarons Market, Tel Aviv.