Every foodie who’s ever gone abroad goes equipped with a list of places they need to hit up. It’s inevitable—you’re going to a cool country, someone you know has been before and tells you that you absolutely have to try the burger here or the pasta there.
I had one of those lists when I went to Israel, and it was tough to find time to visit all the places I wanted to. Of the places I did find time to go to, some of them were successes, and some not so much.
There are a ton of restaurants in Tel Aviv that are very Israeli-specific, like the ones with chicken livers in pita or six different kinds of hummus. But there are also places that would be successful in America, like these:
The Tasting Room is a wine bar located in Sarona, an outdoor shopping area in central Tel Aviv. This isn’t your average wine bar. You enter the bar by walking down two flights of stairs to a moderately lit basement with rows and rows of varying wine bottles decorating the walls, and you’re handed a piece of plastic that looks like a credit card.
The area in front of you is littered with high tops and tables for four, as well as a conference area with a plasma screen TV. Ahead of you is a row of silver machines that look like bar-sized refrigerators, but they’re actually wine dispensers.
You’ll find forty-some wines for you to try by the taste, half glass, or full glass, organized from red to white, Israeli and international. You slide your card into the dispenser and choose which amount you’d like to try, and the machine dispenses a precisely measured amount of wine into your glass.
Rack up a bill each time you try a new wine, and at the end you’ll pay for your libations with a real credit card. The workers are extremely helpful in assisting you with choosing wines that will fit your personal taste.
Picnic is also located in Sarona, a few hundred meters from The Tasting Room. Picnic is in Sarona’s “Little Italy,” and the concept is that you order food in the “market” and then rent a picnic basket and a red and white checkered blanket and find a shady spot around the corner to lay out and relax.
You get buzzed when your food is ready and then you can enjoy it on your blanket. The food is typical Italian fare: pastas, pizzas, paninis. In my opinion, it’s more about the experience.
CAULIFLOWER PORN! I braved a freaking rainstorm to trek to must-try NORTH ABRAXAS in Tel-Aviv where they cut the tomatoes fresh in front of you and garnish it right on the table. Great way to start my last day in the city w/ grilled baby cauliflower melting in its own leaves! ??? #telaviv #telavivyafo #foodtripping #abraxas #abraxasnorth #cauliflower #foodporn #israel
Ah, Abraxas, Abraxas. This is the one place my boss recommends if you only have one night to stay in Tel Aviv. Controversial Israeli chef Eyal Shani conquers modern Israeli fare at this dining establishment, which was fortunately a five minute walk from my apartment.
I first went to Abraxas North for lunch with my fellow interns and Andrea, the Director of Campus Growth at Spoon University, and then went about a week later with my roommates for dinner. The whole vibe of the restaurant is about showing food in its simplest form.
The tables are covered with brown butcher paper and a single fresh tomato sits in the center. Plates are rare at this restaurant, as most dishes come out in brown paper bags or on pieces of cardboard. Abraxas North is most well known for its whole head of roasted cauliflower, wrapped in a piece of parchment paper.
We tried the lemony garlic green beans, bread salad, burger (Jessica Biel said on Instagram it was the best burger she’s ever had in her life), and, of course, dessert. Expensive, kind of crazy, but totally worth it.