Armed with hours of foodie intel, Boomer Traveller embarked on an epicurean cheap foodie fest in Tel Aviv. A perfect day.
Tel Aviv is a magnificent foodie tourist destination in a seriously fabulous geographic and cultural setting. Tel Aviv is a city of immigrants from all over the world. Each immigrant group has taken the best from where they came from and using local ingredients and artistic creativity made it better.
Begin your foodie pilgrimage early in the morning to avoid the crowds at Abu Hassan (also known as Ali Caravan), Victor Hugo Street, next to Yehuda Hayamit, Jaffa. Ask anyone in Tel Aviv were you can find the best hummus, in a land of the best hummus, and you will be told to go to Abu Hassan in Old Jaffa. It’s worth the wait to scoop warm chunky hummus with sweet onion.
A brief hop, skip and jump and you will find yourself at a Hamalabiya stand, in the Jaffa flea market, where you can enjoy Malabi, a silky pudding made of milk and cream (vegan options are made with coconut milk), cornstarch, vanilla, and rose syrup, with a selection of toppings (ours had cookie crumbs). The texture is reminiscent of panna cotta but less dense.
Near the main entrance of Jaffa you will find a carbavore‘s nirvana – Said El Abu Lafia and Sons, Clocktower Square, Jaffa. Try the thick pita bread loaded with sumac leaves or a bagela hot from the iconic brick oven.
Then go for a lovely walk to the Dallal Bakery, 7 Kol Yisra’el Khaverim, Neve Tzedek. Perhaps the best bakery in Tel Aviv, everything we tried at the Dallal Bakery (and we tried a lot) was yum. The pistachio cream sufganiyah (a fancy Hebrew name for doughnut) may be the best in the world.
Try your hand at urban foraging… it’s a thing. We snacked on snatched kumquats bursting with flavor from a tree steps away from the Dallal Bakery. You will also find pomelos, oranges, and other fruits in season scattered through the city.
At Kmahim, 20 HaCarmel Street, we had the best sabich in Tel Aviv in a hole in the wall just at the edge of the market Shuk HaCarmel. This Iraqi-Israeli gem consists of pita stuffed with hard boiled eggs, fried eggplant, hummus, tahini, Israeli salad, amba (a spicy pickled mango paste), parsley and a potato pancake.
Walk through the outdoor market Shuk HaCarmel and sample assorted local treats, fresh strawberries, cherry tomatoes, Turkish delight and of course the ubiquitous halvah (a sesame seed based confection – try Dr. Halva’s halvah).
No street foodie trek in Tel Aviv would be complete without a glass of fresh squeezed juice available on almost every street corner. Our favourite – a mix of pomegranate and sweet orange.
Both a vegetarian and a grilled meat lover’s paradise, the Itzik Hagodal (Big Itzik Grill), 3 Raziel St, Jaffa, is an experience in decadent overconsumption. A picture does not do justice to the all you can eat salad order – at peak, we counted 30 different types of salads on our table (and if we managed to finish one it was instantly replenished).
While definitely not a cheap restaurant, Shila, 182 Ben Yehuda, makes one of the best appetizers we ever tasted in our lives. And if you limit yourself to just the appetizer it counts as a cheap eat… While everything on the menu is stunning, if you can only have one dish, order the red tuna carpaccio… we had it three times and sat at the counter to try and figure out how it was made.
Our interpretation: Put olive oil and red wine vinegar on a plate. Top with very thin tuna sashimi. Wipe on a thin coat of wasabi. Add three small scoops of Campari-grapefruit-ginger- lemongrass sorbet garnished with finely minced onions, hot pepper slice and marinated seaweed.
Beyond everything else it has to offer, Tel Aviv is definitely for foodies.