Pita / Miznon
Israeli chef Eyal Shani has been making headlines all over the world with his Miznon chain of semi-fast food joints, which recently opened in NYC, Melbourne, Paris and Vienna, in addition to the three Tel Aviv outlets – and with good reason. Serving simple and fresh organic produce – which is fried, grilled or cooked in a no-fuss yet very precise method and then placed inside of a freshly baked pita with some tahini and toppings – Miznon has changed the way Israelis see street food for the best. Other than delicious, quick meals, Miznon is known for its casual, fun and vibrant atmosphere evident in all the branches, complete with hand-written menus, loud music and the coolest people. You can enjoy an oh-so-delicious pita with a baked potato and sour cream or a tomato ‘steak’ with tahini for 23 ILS ($7), along with many more options including vegetables, meat and seafood, which are more costly in accordance. Whatever you opt for, you won’t be disappointed.
Sabich / Sabich Tchernichovsky
Sabich is made up of fried eggplant slices, brown boiled eggs, potatoes, a selection of salads and tahini sauce all swirled up inside a warm pita. While sabich is one of Israel’s most beloved street food dishes, internationally, it’s one of the most underrated ones. With plenty of sabich establishments all over the country, there are several iconic ones that always stand out – and the long queues outside Sabich Tchernichovsky will quickly indicate how people feel about this place. Whether you opt for a traditional sabich, which will only set you back 21 NIS ($6), or their special version made with goat’s feta cheese, you are in for a delicious and satisfying treat.
Falafel / Falafel Hakosem
Falafel is something every tourist in Israel wants to try – and after trying it, they can’t get enough of it. These little balls of yum are not only healthy (if we put aside the deep-frying and pita), but they are also vegan, delicious and so cheap. While you can easily find a falafel in a pita for 10 ILS ($2.50) or less in many places around the city, for a little extra, go for the best. Hakosem, which is Hebrew for ‘the magician’ or ‘the wizard’, is an exact description of the street food served at this place. You simply need to try a pita filled with falafel, salad, tahini and whatever else you would like to add to it in order to understand how indulging street food can get.
Shawarma / Keter Hamizrah
Much like the Turkish doner or Greek gyros, shawarma is a street food meal that will leave you happy, full and very satisfied. It is made with lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal or mixed meats, placed on a vertical rotating spit and grilled for as long as a day, until it is scraped off and served in a pita, taboon flatbread (lafa) or on a plate. As you may have already guessed, the Levantine dish is usually enjoyed with tahini, hummus, chopped salad, pickled cabbage and sometimes, amba. Keter Hamizrah (Hebrew: The Crown of the East) has sustained its reputation for over 50 years, without ever changing its menu. The 1965 institution is one of the best places in the city for the beloved dish, as well as additional Levant, Mediterranean and Israeli home cooking.
Hummus / Mifgash Osher
Has anyone ever left Israel without having (and loving) hummus? Highly unlikely. Basically, you can find hummus everywhere and it will always be cheap. Mifgash Osher, which is Hebrew for ‘Meeting point of Happiness’, is located in the heart of Tel Aviv. Here is where you can enjoy a delicious plate of hummus with all the traditional toppings like tahini, boiled chickpeas, egg, salad and others, as well as some original versions which include fried eggplant and cauliflower, bulgur salad and more. Most of the hummus plates are priced at about 20-30 ILS ($6-9) and are served with some pita, making sure you don’t go hungry for a few hours, to say the least.
Bourekas / Abulafia
With several branches across the city, Abulafia is one place travellers can’t – and shouldn’t – overlook. The incredible smell of baked goods will lead you to this no-fuss bakery, where you will find hundreds of bagels, pitas and bread, not to mention, savoury pastries like bourekas or sambusak with many filling options including potatoes, cheese, pizza or if you feel like it, an abundance of sweet delicacies like croissants, rugelach, cookies and more. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night after an evening out, you’ll definitely enjoy every buttery bite.
Druze pita with labneh / Hakarmel Market
This dish can be found in every market in the country and it would be very hard to find one that failed you. Druze pita may also be recognized as ‘lafa’, or even ‘wrap’, and it is essentially flatbread cooked on a rounded taboon oven and then smeared with labneh, olive oil and za’atar and rolled up and eaten as a wrap. In other words, it’s heavenly. This delicious and satisfying meal costs 20 ILS ($5.50) and while you’re already there, try some Druze vine leaves and salads – you won’t regret it.
Pasta / Levinsky Pasta Bar
After trying all kinds of Middle Eastern street food delights, you may simply need a plate of fresh, filling pasta, right? This hidden pasta bar, recently opened in the heart of the kingdom of spices – Levinsky Market – is here to serve you with fresh, handmade pasta in various shapes and sizes and at a really good price. A simple aglio e olio dish (with fresh pasta, of course) costs less than 30 ILS ($9) and tastes like much more. Levinsky Pasta Bar serves their pasta with many different types of sauces, as well as dough flavours and sorts, so for a healthier version, opt for the delicious spelt pasta.
Shakshuka / Shakshukia
As one of Israel’s most common dishes, it won’t be hard to come across a good shakshuka anywhere in the country. The beloved dish is made with eggs boiled in tomato sauce with onion, garlic and spices and is traditionally served in a hot iron pan along with some bread, freshly chopped salad and tahini. Already convinced? Although you can find shakshuka at a decent price in any cafe, Israeli street food establishment or even at most fancy restaurants (especially during brunch), shakshuka connoisseurs will opt to try one of Shakshukia’s unique variations with ground meat, mushrooms, eggplant or shawarma. The most basic shakshuka (which is also delicious) will set you back a mere 29 ILS ($8).
Malabi / Hamalabiya
This traditional Middle Eastern dessert is made with milk cooked with corn flour until set in a denser texture. It is then chilled and served with toppings like sweet syrup, rose water, coconut and peanuts. An Israeli’s favourite, malabi can be found in many traditional eateries around the country, as well as in different variations in some of the more elegant restaurants. Hamalabyia is a chain consisting of four branches, with three in Tel Aviv and one in the nearby Givatayim, where you can enjoy a delicious cup of cold malabi with a variety of toppings for just 10 ILS ($2.50) For the full experience, go to one of Hamalabyia’s outlets after dinner and opt to dine in, which means sitting down in one of their pavement dining areas and listening to local artists perform music while people-watching.