Spread out over the Carmel Mountain, Haifa stretches from an industrial port, up through buzzing neighborhoods on the mid-Carmel to wealthy Jewish and Arab suburbs at the top. Haifa’s dining scene is equally varied, with authentic restaurants and hole-in-the-walls across all. Here are ten of the best places to dine.
Something of a local institution, Abu Marun is a tiny, humble eatery, built right into the side of one of Haifa’s main Mosques. Renowned for serving the best hummus, pickles and unique spicy French fries in Haifa, its overwhelming popularity has seen a steep increase in prices in recent years, making the still-budget rates nonetheless somewhat out of sync with the rest of the shabby downtown district. Despite this, Abu Marun offers the Haifa experience like nowhere else in town, and is well worth the visit.
On the road the Nazareth, a 20-minute drive from the centre of Haifa, Limousine Steakhouse was founded by two ‘Israeli cowboys’, who farmed the rural community of Ramat Yishai, in the fertile Jezreel Valley. Eventually, the brothers realised that they could turn their family farm into a successful venture by opening one of the only steakhouses outside of Israel’s cities. Limousine is unanimously praised for having some of the best quality meat in the whole country, and particularly favoured by tourists from the USA, used to high-quality American beef. In addition to the range of steak cuts, kebabs and varieties of carnivorous options, the menu has a wide array of Israeli beer to complement the meal.
The best place for breakfast or brunch in Haifa is Café Louise, on the Carmel Mount. The healthy ‘Kibbutz style’ breakfasts (egg options with salads, bread and spreads) and indulgent brunch dishes are famed throughout the city, as well as delicious juices and shakes that have proved so popular that a separate health food store has opened alongside the café. The menu is full of vegetarian and vegan options, and, as a strange but endearing quirk, the café has the pavement running through its premises.
It might not be in the most sophisticated of locations, but HaBokrim steakhouse, in the Paz gas station in downtown Haifa, is highly commended for its wonderful meat and homely atmosphere. Its décor is a dedicated replica of an American ranch joint, and on arrival, guests are presented with a big plate of pickles and a bucket of ‘monkey nuts’, peanuts still in the shell. By tradition, guests are encouraged, if not obliged, to dispose of the shells by throwing them directly on the floor.
The German Colony is reminiscent of a promenade down a quaint, café-lined street in central Europe, and yet there’s a striking lack of breezy cafés to wander into. A clear favourite, among the few, is Fattoush, which offers a unique take on Middle Eastern cuisine, offering unusual salads, pies and rice dishes, in addition to desserts and drinks. The main attraction is undeniably the gorgeous terrace garden, set beneath hanging lamps that create a gentle ethereal atmosphere and enhanced by the view of the Baha’i Gardens, which are lit up at night. The hummus platter is particularly recommended.
To the tourist who finds their way to Hof Zamir beach, Kadarim may seem like your average beachside restaurant. Locals, however, are well aware of the history of the Kadarim enterprise. The business belongs to an Arab family, one of the few that managed to keep their homes in 1948. They originally owned a pottery factory in downtown Haifa during the Ottoman rule, then relocated it to the Kfar Samir area in 1924, under the British Mandate. In 1982, anticipating Haifa’s changing nature, they moved onto their next project: a restaurant on a beach that was quickly turning from an empty fisherman’s haven into a tourist, surfer and expat hub. Nowadays, the beach, and the restaurant are packed in the warm months, but the family have maintained their unique stamp on this venture ever-flourishing venture.
Nestled in the hills just south of Haifa, Ein Hod Artists’ Village is a rare find in Israel’s cultural scene; a commune of artists living and working together, surrounded by murals and sculptures set between old stone villas. At its heart is a deservedly popular Argentinean restaurant, Doña Rosa, so named after the matriarch of the owners, who ran a workers’ kitchen on her family’s Argentinean ranch. Her grandchildren eventually founded the steakhouse in Israel as a tribute to Doña Rosa’s traditional recipes. The décor creates the illusion of being back in rural South America, and even the grill was brought over from Argentina, and is used to slowly roast succulent beef, which is then served on mini grills at the table. Book in advance, particularly on a Friday evening, when guests are serenaded by live music on the terrace.
Perched on the second tier of Mount Carmel, Nof Chinese restaurant overlooks the Baha’i gardens, and offers a spectacular panorama of the lower part of the city, Haifa bay, and, on a clear day, the stretch of coast all the way up to Lebanon. It’s not just the views that attract people to this spacious restaurant; the Chinese and Szechuan food here is perhaps as authentic as it gets in Israel, where sushi has far surpassed Chinese food in popularity, and Chinese cuisine is more often than not, greasy fast food. At Nof the menu is extensive, the atmosphere is sophisticated, and the dishes are of the highest quality and flavours.
Ein El Wadi, located at the heart of the Arab quarter of Haifa, serves traditional Palestinian food in an ancient building, with preserved stone archways still standing. For Palestinian hospitality, this is the place to go, and the charming owners will see to it that you sample all the best platters, Arabic coffee and honey-laced desserts. The speciality, the traditional dish of mujaddara is a must-try, since you’ll be hard pressed to find it as authentic as in Haifa’s Wadi Nisnas district.
The only fine dining option in Haifa is Hanamal 24, curiously situated not in one of the affluent neighbourhoods, but by the industrial port. When Hanamal 24 opened a few years back, it marked a shift in Israel’s culinary scene, moving away from a Tel Aviv-centric culture, and attracting more foodies up north in search of undiscovered delights. The chef, Ran Rosh, trained with Paul Bocuse’s in Lyon, and has worked on at Michelin-starred restaurants on the French Riviera and Paris’ suburbs. The menu at Hanamal 24 is, unsurprisingly, French-inspired, while the design is rustic Tuscan in theme.