Whether you see it as a port city with a thriving working class, or as a university town with a growing student population, Haifa is a place where affordable meals are in high demand. The rich blend of cultures in this historically diverse city brings together all the best flavors of the Middle East. Here are our top five places for inexpensive, convenient, and delicious fare.
Despite a fierce and ongoing rivalry with neighboring falafel stand Michel, Falafel Hazkenim has stood the test of time as the clear leader for this popular and inexpensive street food in Haifa, and some say, in all of Israel. Enjoy a complimentary falafel ball, crisp and hot from the deep fryer topped with a dollop of cool, creamy tahini as you wait in an inevitably long line (regardless of the time of day) in the crowded shop. But things move fast, and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a pita stuffed with this chick pea delicacy, an unlimited amount of salad and fresh vegetables, hummus, tahini and Hazkenim’s special hot sauce.
Shawarma shops dot almost every street corner in Haifa, but Emil’s, a veteran Haifa business, is a shawarma purist. While shawarma is often considered the fast food of Israel, Emil’s serves up a meal that’s a lot closer to fine dining. Forget the endless salads and toppings that most places use to bulk up their meals, at Emil’s you get high-quality, flavorful meat, paired with thinly sliced onion and tomato in a fresh, chewy pita. No turkey or chicken here, just tender, gristle-free, shredded veal.
One glance at this unassuming hole-in-the wall situated in the heart of Wadi Nisnas, Haifa’s Arab market district, may fool you into believing that this is just another bakery. However, each pita here is made fresh and comes loaded with toppings and flavor, elevating this humble staple bread to true delicacy statues. Try one with a tomato sauce, a subtle dash of spice, and tender onions, or drenched in olive oil, za’atar (hyssop), and bulgarit(salty white cheese). For food that is filling and unbelievably inexpensive, with a veteran staff that is always willing to help, this is the perfect spot.
A Haifa legend, owner Bracha peddles her sandwiches everyday of the week to tourists, students, locals, and even many Israeli celebrities who make it a point to stop by when they’re in the city. The crisp toasted rolls, the special process of frying the meat and cheese together on the griddle, and Bracha’s secret sauce make these sandwiches a must for lovers of both greasy treats and gourmet food. In spite of her famous abrasiveness, Bracha will take good care of you and make sure you come back for more.
These Turkish-style filo dough pastries are ubiquitous in Israel, but you haven’t really had burekas until you’ve tried one of Ha’agala’s huge creations, stuffed with spinach and cheese, mushrooms, or even mashed potato. Served with the trademark hot peppers and spicy olives, each one is a satisfying meal in flaky, savory packaging. But be sure to come early in the day, because by the late afternoon loyal customers and curious passers-by in the downtown business district will have claimed all of the burekas, which are made fresh daily.