Tel Aviv is a foodie paradise. The city is full of everything from traditional workers’ restaurants serving cheap, delicious local cuisine, to full-on gourmet places with food cooked by world-class chefs. Food is not cheap in Tel Aviv (nothing is, really), but it can and will blow you away if you go to the right places. The secret is fresh, locally grown ingredients and pure skill in the kitchen.
What to eat?
The obvious choice is the local food, inspired by local Palestinian / Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisine. This style finds its way into many fusion offerings, as well, as Tel Aviv is a place where many global culinary influences meet.
Tel Aviv is also a great place to try traditional “Jewish” food. Although outside of Israel this often means the traditional Kosher versions of East European dishes, and other dishes developed by Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe, this is not what the terms “homecooked” or “Jewish” food mean locally.
In Israel, Jewish food also means dishes from other countries Jews came from – Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Persia / Iran, Iraq, and Ethiopia are probably the most obvious ones, though India, Afghanistan, and other central Asian countries are also well represented.
Tel Aviv is also a place local chefs return to after learning to cook abroad. Don’t miss out on the city’s great Asian, Italian, French, and Mexican places. Israelis love meat and seafood, so you’ll have plenty of choices in those areas. Seafood is readily available all over town and there’s an active fishing port in Jaffa where business buy their supplies daily. There are also plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
Lastly, Tel Aviv is an ethnically diverse town, and there are restaurants set up by and serving the local immigrant and asylum seeker communities. Expect everything from authentic Chinese, to Vietnamese, Filipino, Turkish, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Eritrean, Sudanese, Tibetan / Nepali, and South American places, though for some you’ll need to venture into the gritty Neve Shaanan neighbourhood.
When to eat?
Late or early dinner? In Tel Aviv you can choose. Places open early for dinner but are open till late, often till last customer. People in Tel Aviv are as likely to go out for a meal at 19:00 as they are to eat at 22:00.
Top tip: Go to expensive restaurants at lunch during the week, as there are often “business lunch” deals that can make even the priciest gourmet restaurant more affordable.
Whatever you do, make time for breakfast at least once. Breakfast is often served till lunch, and some places serve it all day (or 24 hours). The famous “Israeli breakfast” usually includes eggs, a selection of cheeses and dips, bread, and salad. Vegan options are increasingly available, with vegan omelettes, vegan shakshuka, and vegan cheese.
Is everything in Tel Aviv Kosher?
If you keep Kosher, you obviously won’t have trouble finding a place to eat in Tel Aviv. There are both meat and dairy-oriented places to choose from, and almost every street food place will be 100% Kosher. But even if Kosher isn’t your deal, don’t worry. Tel Aviv is not an overly religious city, so you’ll be able to get your share of seafood, places that serve meat and dairy together and, obviously, places that are open during the Sabbath. The places below are not necessarily Kosher, unless stated.
Top Tel Aviv Restaurants
The list below is the very tip of the iceberg. The full DIY Tel Aviv guide has a whole chapter dedicated to eating and drinking out, and another dedicated to fast food and street food options.
Tsfon Abraxas (Abraxas North)
Lilienblum 40 * 03-5166660 * Sun 18:00 – 4:00, Mon – Thurs 12:00 – 4:00, Fri-Sat 13:00 – 4:00
Owned by notorious Israeli TV chef, Eyal Shani, this is possibly the finest introduction to Israeli fusion cuisine. The concept relies on high quality ingredients and minimal seasoning, designed to bring out the natural flavours. Note that this doesn’t mean the food isn’t quite spicy at times and unlike many other places in town, this place is not as likely to be flexible if you’d like it toned down.
Cheap and cheerful
Abu Hassan (Shivtei Israel 14, Jaffa) is the most likely contender for best hummus in town. They used to only offer hummus, but have recently expanded to also offer chips (fries) and salads. Prepare to queue for a while to get a seat, especially on the busy Friday lunchtime session, but it’s totally worth it. Get there before 14:00.
Pronto – modern, friendly and pleasant, with great food. This big, modern place has been around for years and years, which is a rare thing in Tel Aviv. Perfect for a romantic meal or a business lunch.
Thai House – quite possibly the only truly authentic Thai food you’ll have in Tel Aviv. A fun place with a somewhat tropical vibe and a huge menu, including plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. Don’t miss out on the amazing cocktails!
Taqueria – a trendy Mexican place that’s a bit more upmarket than an actual taqueria, but not exactly posh. Frequented by local creatives and media darlings and is always busy. You can order takeaway too.
Bana – set in a bright, beautiful space in an old building, this decadent vegan place is guaranteed to blow your mind, even if you’re not actually a vegan. Bring your non-vegan friends and relatives here to teach them that vegan food can be both delicious and free of meat replacements. The focus here is on excellent local ingredients from the plant kingdom, not fake meat or fish.
Tenat – for the best African food in Tel Aviv, you need to head south to the Neve Shaanan neighbourhood, which is full of Eritrean and Sudanese offerings by and for the local asylum seeker community. This trendy vegan Ethiopian restaurant is a good Kosher alternative and is set up like a pleasant cafe. It’s a good introduction to the cuisine if a shady-looking hole in the wall is a bit too much for you.