The old adage is that while Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays, and, to be honest, you feel that when you're there.  24/7 there are people out on the streets partying, people at the beach tanning, and, of course, people in restaurants eating.  So, why should anyone be concerned about a little city on the Mediterranean far from the gastronomic epicenters of the world?

That was my initial thought, too: why would there be any of good food there besides schwarma, schnitzel, and hummus?  After living there for a summer, however, my outlook has changed.  I realized that Tel Aviv's food scene is thriving, diverse, and encompasses cuisines from all around the world.  Here, you can find the best of everything and, to tell you the truth, I loved every second of it.


This is a fair question.  For a country that has a few relatively homogenous populations, why would there be a thriving and diverse food scene?  Let's start with the history.  When there were large migrations of Jews back to Israel in the early 1900s, there was a fusion of foods that took place.  These Jews mixed foods from where they were from with foods that were endemic to Israel; thus, items like sabich were born.  Additionally, Israelis had to be innovative and come up with next-best-option items for food that they missed (e.g. ptitim).  So, there was a spark of creativity which spurred the modern food scene.

Now, while Israel was used to its Middle Eastern, North African, and European foods (places that Jews had come from), other ethnic restaurants started popping up.  This was the case because normally in Israel, after your mandatory army service, many people tend to take a year backpacking.  During this time, people usually end up in places like South America, Southeast Asia, India, and China.  Here, people spend one of their best years abroad and crave the local cuisine when they get back home.


Now, Tel Aviv, as Israel's most cosmopolitan city, is a thriving tourist destination.  To talk about the food scene, I'll divide the city up and talk about specific areas or places to get the food there.  


In Hebrew, Shuk means "market."  In Tel Aviv there's quite a few shuks where you can, in addition to buying clothing, household items, and produce, you can also buy some of the best food in the city.  In Tel Aviv, there's three major shuks: HaCarmel, Levinsky, and Hatikvah.  Shuk HaCarmel is one of most touristy sites in Israel and also has some of the best food there.  As you walk down the main path, you can see vendors selling candy, juices, spices, and various other middle eastern delicacies.  Down the side streets and alleys next to the market, you can find all sorts of stall and little restaurants selling Israel's best fare.  Some highlights are Mitch (famous for their Mitchi, a Romanian sausage), Cafe Yom Tov (one of the breakfasts/brunches in Tel Aviv), and Schlomo and Doron, an amazing Hummus place.  Also, an extra benefit of going to eat at Shuk HaCarmel is that it sits adjacent to the Yemenite Quarter.  Here, the border isn't demarcated and there's many amazing Yemenite places there.  

Shuk Levinsky and Shuk Hatikvah are quite different from Shuk HaCarmel.  Shuk Levinsky is one street (Levinsky Street) and has all sorts of food purveyors.  Here, in addition to the fine cheese, wine, and meat shops, there are also restaurants and coffee shops.  While the best time to go is Thursday night or Friday morning/afternoon (before Shabbat), you can find people walking around buying goods whenever.  Also, some musts here are Saluf and Sons, a Yemenite restaurant, Gorma Sabzi, and Persian restaurant, and Cafe Levinsky, a cool little place that makes their own pickled fruits and cool fermented items.  A must is also Shuk Hatikvah, an off-the-beaten-path market.  Here you can find Amba makers, Bukharian bakers, and amazing little restaurants.  While it's far from just about everything in Tel Aviv, you should definitely try and hit it.

South Tel Aviv/Jaffa

South Tel Aviv is made up of areas like Jaffa, Florentin, Neve Tzedek, and part of the area below Rothschild Blvd.  This area tends to be made up of younger people and, naturally, great food and fun spots have followed.  In Jaffa, the most well-known spot is The Old Man and the Sea.  While this place is touristy, you'll also find plenty of locals there because the food is that good- expect about 25 different salads and pita too, all of which are unlimited.  Also, make sure to check out Onza, a new Turkish restaurant owned by the Sucre Group, one of the consortiums of restaurants in Tel Aviv.  Here, expect loud music, fun drinks and people, and amazing food (try the "Pide").  

Florentin and Neve Tzedek are right next to each other.  Florentin has a grunge vibe, while Neve Tzedek has a class, upscale one.  In Florentin,  in addition to the countless bars, make sure to try restaurants such as Kanu, a Vietnamese restaurant, Mezcal, a great Mexican joint, and HaBarbanel, what some would regard as the best pizza in Tel Aviv.  In Neve Tzedek, some of the hippest places in the city rest along Shabazi street.  Here, try Dallal, a hot Italian-Israeli fusion place, Cafe Alma, a cafe that does upscale twists on Israeli classics, and Popina, the best French food in the city.  

Finally, in an area that sits in between Florentin and Jaffa, make sure to check out OCD, the fine dining restaurant that's shaking up the food scene in Tel Aviv.  Here, chef Razi is bringing pre-fixe menu and worldly food to the city.  This place will be discussed in more detail in a future article.  

Rothschild Boulevard 

Jesse Fox

Rothschild Blvd. is a food beast of its own.  In addition to being one the best places to go out at night, it's also got some of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv.  For your classic American 24/7 Breakfast (with the best 4 inch tall Oreo or kinder pancakes you've ever tasted), head to Benedict on Rothschild and Allenby.  For some of the best noodles in Telly, head to Vong, an amazing Vietnamese restaurant.  Also, definitely make sure to check out Max Brenner's there because he's originally from Israel.  Finally, be sure to check out North Abraxus and Romano, two of Eyal Shani's restaurants.  They're both off of Rothschild, but amazing, upbeat places!

For fast food/late night food definitely head to Susu and Sons.  It's one of the best burgers in the city and I'd also highly recommend getting the lobster on top.  Additionally, head to Tony Vespa, a pizza classic.  While they officially close at 5 AM, if there are people who are buying pizza, they'll stay open indefinitely. 

Right off of the upper part of Rothschild is an amazing find call Bellboy Bar.  In addition to some of the coolest drinks and appetizers in Tel Aviv, Bellboy Bar has one of the, if not the best, brunch.  For a set price of 120 Shekels, you get unlimited appetizers (the white truffle egg salad is to die for), some daily specials, and one main course.  I would highly recommend the pumpkin pancakes with bacon interspersed and a side of pumpkin panna cotta.  


Sarona is an area that's recently gone through a food revival.  Inside an area that was settled in the 1800s, some of the best restaurants have popped up.  The main attraction there is Sarona Market, an enclosed market that has popup restaurants from some of the best chefs in Tel Aviv.  Here, you can also buy some of your finer fare from the best cheese, meat, and wine purveyors in the city.  Here, try Sushi Ze and Captain Curry.

Besides the market, I personally think Sarona has the highest concentration of great restaurants in the city.  Must-eat places include Minna Tomei, a pan-Asian restaurant seving Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean food, Claro;, an Italian place serving one of the best brunches in the city, and Nithan Thai, the restaurant with my favorite lunch specials. 

Dizengoff, Ben Yehuda, and the Port
Jesse Fox

Personally, I group all these areas together because there are cool coffee places, shops, and bars; however, the restaurants don't necessarily wow me.  That being said, there are still some cool places to check out.  Spicehaus is a bar serving up all sorts of cool drinks.  To complement these, they make a maple syrup grilled cheese which is the perfect meal to satisfy any 2AM craving.  The maple syrup and blue cheese combo is something I never thought I'd need; but, now that I'm back in the states, I'm craving it.  

For the best Shakshuka in Tel Aviv, head to Shakshukia.  Here, there is a menu where you choose your toppings, how you want your eggs cooked, and how spicy you want it.  The bread is unlimited and the deliciousness is unprecedented.  Finally, while you're up here, head to both Mashya and Kitchen Market.  These two restaurants are also owned by the Sucre Group and are much classier version of Onza.  The ambiance is not as buzzing as Onza's; but the food is really something special.  At Kitchen Market, try the mushroom creme brûlée, a flavor profile you've probably not had before.  


All in all Tel Aviv has a lot of great places to try.  Whatever kind of mood you're in, there is a food option to go with it.  There are other great areas of the city and vibrant food cultures (like the enormous amounts of vegan places) that I couldn't event hit on in this article.  If you're looking for a culinary wonderland, make sure to add Tel Aviv to your list.  Ya Habibi!