In the few weeks leading up to our Israel trip, I was hearing that some of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv are competing with notable outfits in Paris, New York, London and other global epicenters of epicurean delight—and we couldn’t wait to eat our way through the city.
But coming from San Francisco, one of the food capitals of the world, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the restaurants in Tel Aviv. I was certain they’d do some things right—mainly hummus and falafel—but what about everything else? Could I sustain myself for a week on chickpeas and pita alone? After trying both in Israel I’m happy to report that “yes, I could survive on hummus and pita sandwiches and what a fantastic diet!” But I digress.
What about the meat? Would it be good? Kosher meat in the US has a bad wrap for being notoriously lean (aka tough), and more expensive. I wasn’t sure if all or most of the meat in Israel was kosher or halal?
Let’s not forget the giant pig in the room—will there be bacon in Israel? I mean seriously, how good can the food be if there isn’t the occasional whiff of that smoky bacon goodness so many of us have come to know and love?
I’m happy to report the food in Tel Aviv, and Israel at large, is friggin amazing!
Here’s a short list of the some of our recommendations for the best restaurants in Tel Aviv. And before you attack us, we know it’s not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure we’re missing loads of fantastic eateries, but if you’re planning a trip and need some direction, here are a few food spots I think you’ll love. We certainly did.
Tel Aviv Restaurant Recommendations
Restaurants in the Rothschild district
Tel Aviv’s Rothschild district is the new “it neighborhood.” Flanking its major artery, Rothschild Boulevard, are tons of cafes, restaurants, bars and shops. Grab a coffee and sit on a bench along the pedestrian parkway and people-watch for a little bit. It’s a great way to get a sense for the culture, fashion and diversity of Tel Aviv. There’s a good amount of foot traffic on weekdays, but the boulevard really comes alive on Shabbat when everyone in the city seems to be out and about enjoying each other and their beautiful metropolis on the water.
Rothschild Boulevard runs the length of the neighborhood, bookended by the Neve Tzedek on its southern edge and the Habima Theater on its northern border. If Bauhaus is your thing, you’ll find tons of great examples in the Rothschild District.
Fun fact: Independence Hall, where Israel’s declaration of Independence was signed, is smack dab in the center of Rothschild Boulevard. Originally the Dizengoff House, this is a great museum to visit for a quick explanation of how the modern State of Israel began. You’ll learn about the Dizengoffs and Rothschilds, two of the 60 founding families of Tel Aviv that have been honored with the names of neighborhoods and major thoroughfares throughout the city.
Hotel Montefiore is a hip and swanky boutique hotel on the edge of the Rothschild District. It’s also surrounded by a lot of really great Bauhaus buildings so it’s a nice spot to walk to and from. They have a really great lunch that includes a few starter dishes as an incentive for people to come and do their business lunches there. It’s a great way to try a few things on the menu. The setting is beautiful in the daytime so I would definitely go for lunch if you can, but they also serve what looks like an amazing dinner. The library room and the front patios are great places to sit, but the entire restaurant and Hotel above are beautiful.
The Allenby Market [As of June 2018, the market appears to be closed]
The Allenby Market Don’t let the austere exterior of this giant food hall at the base of a skyscraper deceive you—this place is great place to nosh! The Allenby Market is like a giant food court with a ton of options so it’s a good place to go with a group, have everyone disperse, and then meet back at a table to see what food everyone was craving.
I particularly liked the Chipsea King, a stand serving up fish and chips, mixed seafood and chips, and schnitzel and chips. Everything is served in a cone, with some really awesome thick cut fries. They have a bunch of different dips from traditional ketchup and tartar sauce, to a garlic aioli to sriracha mayo, etc.
The Allenby Market is a relatively new place so it’s popular and can be crowded, but then again, that’s what a food market should feel like. On the weekends, they have a DJ scratching records and it’s quite the scene.
There’s also Coffee House 36, a great coffee shop in the front entrance of the Allenby Market Hall where you can get a good cup of coffee and some pastries for the road.
Benedict like its tagline is “all about breakfast” and they serve it all day. Focused on breakfast cuisine and not just the time of day it’s enjoyed, Benedict is a small restaurant chain in Israel that specializes in traditional breakfast foods, with the occasional twist on a dish for good measure. When you’re looking for something familiar and you think you need a break from hummus and cucumber salad, Benedict is a great spot to get some steak fries, brioche bread, poached eggs, etc. This was a recommendation of our local friend who knows we can’t get enough of a good eggs benedict, and they serve REAL BACON! Not goose bacon or beef bacon, which are just smoked meats sliced thin and used as a bacon substitute in a lot of restaurants—especially hotels.
Magical falafel near Dizengoff Center
Named after one of the sixty founding families of Israel and Tel Aviv, the Dizengoff Center is kind of the center of the city. There’s a lot of shopping in this area, a big movie theater and tons of restaurants, cafes, and pastry shops. A lot of visitors try and stay in hotels near the water around Frishman Beach along Ha-Yarkon Street, and if that’s the case, you’ll end up walking through the Dizengoff Center as you make your way South, or Inland if you’re not walking along the boardwalk that is.
Falafel Hakosem is a great casual spot for some fantastic falafel and beer. As you can imagine, falafel is one of those dishes that everyone in Israel has an opinion about. It was our experience that all falafel in Israel is better than anything you get in the US, but Hakosem, which means “the magician” in Hebrew, was our favorite.
They mash their roasted eggplant into pattie and fry them into thin rectangular bricks that easily slide into the pita pocket as a backdrop to all your other fillings so you get a little bit in each bite. A lot of locals agree this is one of the best places for falafel too.
Restaurant in Jaffa (or Yafo)
Jaffa is the old fortress on the southern end of Tel Aviv. It’s looks like an old Jerusalem stone complex on the water that at one point was the main port city of Israel. Steeped in centuries of battles and takeovers, Jaffa (aka Yafo) changed hands between the Egyptians, Brittish, French, among others; and since the beginning there have been Jews, Muslims and Christians making claims to this landmark. In the 1920’s most of the Jews in Jaffa were expelled and they moved into Tel Aviv just north of Jaffa, which is why the majority of the residents in Jaffa today are Muslim.
Jaffa is a peaceful tourist attraction where Muslims, Jews and Christians (Greek Orthodox mostly) coexist. There are tones of art galleries and Jewelry shops along the winding stone passageways, and worth the visit. At the base of Jaffa is the Arab market where you can do some really amazing antique shopping and get some great Arabic food.
A stroll down Yefet Street
I recommend trying the Sahlab from one of the many vendors selling it on Yefet Street. Sahlab is an Arabic dessert that some call a drink, while others say it’s more of a pudding or porridge. It reminds me of grits only it’s made from salep flour which comes from the tubers of orchid plants. So it’s kind of a plane base that can top with whatever you want. Traditionally you eat Sahlab with honey, dried fruits, coconut, pistachios, etc. If it’s cold out, it’s a great dessert to warm you up.
The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea is a one of the most famous places in Tel Aviv, because it’s along the marina in old Jaffa, and it’s known for being a place where Jews and Arabs dine together in peace. We didn’t actually have a chance to fit it in, but it was recommended by everyone we talked to. We did have a chance to walk by the restaurant and looked at the food on people’s plates and the menu—and it’s the type of place I would want to dine at for sure. They’re known for their whole fish, and it’s seems like a gathering spot for both lunch and dinner. I think a reservation would be helpful, because the place gets crowded.
Walk around the building too, because there’s some interesting street art to see. Like this entire wall!
Dinner in the Levinsky Market Neighborhood
Dalida restaurant is a relatively new spot in the Levinsky Market neighborhood, which is a neighborhood going through gentrification as the rest of Tel Aviv is getting more and more expensive.
Dalida is amazing and you have to go! It’s a dinner spot, and you will want to make a reservation if you want to guarantee you’ll have a table. Everything is served family style (sort of like The Progress on Fillmore Street) and they have a way of structuring the menu so that you get to taste a lot of different things. Everything we had was unique and delicious. From a flavor and style of cuisine, Dalida is like Tel Aviv’s equivalent to SF’s State Bird Provisions, though I don’t think it’s as hard to get a reservation.
They have a large table in the back so you can make a reservation for a group. They have awesome cocktails and fantastic service too. It’s a must!
Eating in the Neve Tzedek
Anita la mamma del gelato
Anita la mamma del gelato is the place I wanted to go back to like 20 times, but only went once and I’m actually a little heartbroken about it. They have three locations in Tel Aviv (and two Australia), but the one in the Neve Tzedek (old town) on Shabazi Street is the original. They also have one in the Florentine district, which isn’t far from the Neve Tzedek so you can try to get it in on a day you’re in that area.
There are a lot of garffiti or “street art” tours of the Florentine district. If you end up going on one, I can almost guarantee it walks you by the Anita gelato shop. They have a white chocolate gelato with a pistachio ganache that literally caused my heart to skip a beat. Go morning, noon, and night.
Dallal Restaurant and Bakery
Dallal Restaurant and Bakery in the Neve Tzedek is on a lot of “must try” lists. I think it used to be one of the most notable spots in the neighborhood, but it’s one of those restaurants that maybe hasn’t kept up with the times because it gets mixed reviews. That being said, people we know and trust have eaten at Dallal recently and still think it’s one of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv. From what I can tell, it’s all about the bakery. So plan to pop in and try some of their delicious confections. If you want a more planned dining experience, make a reservation and go for brunch or dinner. In addition to locally sourced and fresh food, it’s known for its décor. Request a table in their central courtyard if you go, it’s supposed to be very romantic during the day or at night.
Restaurants in the Tel Aviv Port
The Tel Aviv Port has been recently renovated and is now a shopping and dining destination. A nice walk along the ocean boardwalk from Frishman’s Beach, the decommissioned port houses some great spots for dining with the smell and beauty of the Mediterranean Sea at your feet. When the weather is nice, the place is swarming with locals playing paddleboard on the sand, and fishing off the boardwalk.
Café Nimrod has an almost cult following for their Nimrod’s Famous Country Indulgence for two or more. Some local friends of ours said this is the breakfast experience we had to have, and they weren’t wrong. The Famous Country Indulgence is an egg omelet the way you want it, and then they bring to the table a breadboard with pastries, and a pyramid of salads for everyone to enjoy.
There are nearly 30 different items that you get to enjoy—a little bit of this and a little bit of that—all meant as an homage to the cuisine of the Galilee in northern Israel. Everything goes well with the various fresh baked breads they serve you and you really get a sense for all the flavors of the Mediterranean. Including some yogurts, and nutella!
Insider’s tip: If you’re going to enjoy the Famous Country Indulgence from Café Nimrod, you should plan a long walk South along the water. It’s a big breakfast. You’ll love it! But when you’re done, you’ll want to keep moving, or if you’re like me, you’ll feel sick from eating too much! Besides, you’ll want to burn the calories.
Oh, and if you’re planning on going to the Galilee or Safed on your trip, the folks at Café Nimrod are here to help. They have restaurant recommendations, places to stay, and things to do in Northern Israel that they’ll share with you, and they welcome you to ask them about traveling in the North too. So in addition to it being a fantastic breakfast spot on the water, it’s also a mini cultural visitors center for the Galilee.
Shuk HaNamal Farmer’s Market
Shuk HaNamal Farmer’s Market is another large market hall in an old seaport hanger, only it’s a little less hipster and trendy than the Allenby Market. Food stalls sell produce, baked goods, and spices for locals stocking their kitchens with the freshest fare. Other stalls are preparing food on demand or serving grab-and-go cuisine.
Kitchen Market Restaurant
There are a few spots in and around the market hall like Kitchen Market, a contemporary gourmet restaurant where you can make a reservation, take a load off, have a view of the sea, and order from a menu. But part of the fun of the market is interacting with the locals, and trying all the different options.
If you have some ideas for what this list of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv is missing. Let us know in the comments below and we’ll update the list as we go.