The Florentin neighborhood may appear to some as neglected or shabby at first sight, but in a city that is Florentin has truly conserved the original spirit of Tel Aviv. It’s not only artists and designers who are attracted by the alternative, underground and creative atmosphere. The hip and young love to gather there in the evening, though during daytime it’s not any less enchanting. Having lunch in Florentin provides incredible insights into the food culture of the Middle East, so join us on a sampling tour of the neighborhood’s foodie highlights.
It is well known that discussing the best hummus places in Tel Aviv probably will not lead anywhere, as everyone has his own opinion. Maybe Abu Hassan in Jaffa stands out in terms of reputation and fame, but Hummus Hason in Florentin is not just another spot on an endless list. This little restaurant at the intersection of Wolfson and Herzl street has a simple but authentic menu, which includes delicious hummus, falafel and shakshuka. It is popular to take on the go, but sitting at the dining area or at the outside tables will allow you to appreciate the fresh and tasty food even more. With its unpretentious and easy-going style, it perfectly fits into the Florentin neighborhood.
From the outside, Café Kasbah could easily be missed with its nondescript appearance similar to a private home, but upon taking a closer look, you’ll discover a small covered inner courtyard with cozy furniture, tables and sofas to sit down and relax as if you were invited by friends. The menu is highly varied, with a vegetarian selection as well. The vintage interior gives the place a bohemian flair and the arty clientele enhances the feel-good atmosphere the Kasbah inspires. It’s not just a good choice for a mid-day break or coffee, but also for a night time drink when it comes to life under soft lightning.
An alternative to the familiar Middle Eastern food is to be found in this lovely restaurant offering authentic Yemenite food with a modern twist. An open kitchen and large center tables invite you to dine with others in a relaxed ambience. The staff is proud of the traditional specialties they serve, such as kubaneh, a fluffy and special pull-apart yeast bread, baked slowly overnight in a tightly covered container and traditionally served for breakfast on Shabbat by Yemenite Jews. It is offered with various dipping sauces. Another highlight is malawach, paper-thin layers of puff pastry, brushed with oil or fat and cooked flat in a frying pan, served with a variety of fillings and toppings and green zhug, a spicy chili and cilantro sauce. Don’t count the calories and just indulge in the fabulous tastes.
A stop at Azura should not be missed on this culinary trip through the different countries of the Middle East. The Jewish-Iraqi home-style cuisine is a flavorful and colorful experience for the taste buds. A market atmosphere is in the air when you choose your food directly at the open kitchen, looking into huge cooking pots that are steaming and bubbling right in front of your eyes. They contain mouth watering soups and stews such as kubbeh, delicious meat-stuffed dumplings, served in their cooking broth which is packed with fresh vegetables.
The Levinsky Market with its spices, nuts, dried fruit, sweets and other delicacies is a feast for the senses, but also full of places to eat. A plain interior or crowds of people should not deter you from having lunch at Salimi. It is a popular spot for workers in the area and the varieties of rice dishes, soups and kebabs they serve will transport you directly to Persia. Try the gondi, meatballs served in chicken soup and accompanied by raw greens. If you’re looking for something fancy, it’s not the right place. But for everyone who’s keen on excellent food without the pretense, it definitely is.