You already know Tel Aviv has a reputation for having amazing food, right? If you didn’t, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Even better news is the fact that street food is particularly good in Tel Aviv, with the added benefit of being significantly cheaper than proper restaurant food. Yes, even the gourmet street food and yes, of course Tel Aviv has gourmet street food.
If you wanted to save money on your visit to Tel Aviv you could easily live off the cheap and generally tasty and healthy street food available around the clock practically everywhere. In fact, many people do.
Vegetarians and vegans in Tel Aviv are easily catered for as part of the mainstream food options, so although Israelis love their meat, you’ll never be short of a cheap, delicious veggie option.
One of the frequent things people want to know before visiting Tel Aviv is what types of foods are on offer. I know this is something I always look into when I visit a new place. So I’ve written a simple guide below (it’s in the book as well).
Types of street food in Tel Aviv
I won’t pretend that everything you’ll find on the Israeli menus is going to be healthy – us Israelis love our junk food. However, it’s practically unheard of to have a meal without at least one kind of salad, usually more than one. While some Israelis prefer some types of salad to others, it’s extremely rare for locals to turn down all salad. It’s just not how we were raised.
As far as Tel Aviv fast food is concerned, you’ll find that the big name international chains are present, but they hardly dominate the market.
That big, nasty burger chain that shall not be named on the pages of this site, for example, is marketed more as a taste of America than the scummy fast food joint some of you may know and love. It’s expensive compared to local street food, so people go there for a “meal”, rather than a fast food snack. There isn’t one on every street corner in Tel Aviv, either, though there are quite a few local burger joints. However, this being the Middle East, the most common meaty fast food for most Israelis are kebabs shawarma.
With many Israelis being originally from Europe, schnitzel is the other common one, with the uniquely Israeli fusion invention of “schnitzel in a pita” (seen above in the photo) being very common. In general, you’ll be seeing a lot of pita pockets in fast food places in Israel. The local pita bread might be different than what you’re used to at home (so much better than the crap you get in the UK!)
Shwarma and other dishes are often served in a different type of wrap, called a “laffa“. Some places do offer plated versions of the filling, for when you want to cut down on carbs and calories (pitas are delicious but dietetic they are not).
Here are a few other local fast food favourites:
There are hummus places literally everywhere. In Israel, it’s usually eaten for lunch, though some places open in the evening too. Hummus is served with pita bread, pickles, and some spicy sauces included in the price, while many places also offer salads, chips, falafel, and other dishes for an extra price. Some places will serve toppings such as mushrooms or meat, or a hard boiled egg. Friday afternoon is the busiest time in the hummus places, so get ready to queue or go another day.
Everyone’s favourite food made out of chick peas. This is practically Israel’s national dish, even though it’s obvious a popular Middle Eastern dish that wasn’t invented in Israel. It’s usually served in pita bread accompanied by salads, pickles and hot sauces.
Same set up as falafel but instead of falafel in your pita you get fried aubergine (eggplant), egg and potato. Some places will replace the hummus and tahini sauce with feta cheese as an option for those who don’t like hummus. You can easily veganise it by asking for now egg.
Schnitzel in a pita
As mentioned above, this is the finest in Israeli street food fusion cuisine for meat lovers. Love schnitzel but want to also try some local flavours? Falafel not really your thing? Enjoy a schnitzel with chips tucked inside pita bread with all the goodness of the Israeli salads. Some vegan places in town offer a vegan version, too.
As mentioned above, this is highly popular among the meat eaters, though there’s also a popular vegan version around, made out of seitan. You’ll get salads and / or chips to go with it if you’re so inclined. Shawarma places are readily available everywhere.
Apart from the above, you’ll also find some amazing bakeries, ice cream parlours, and juice bars all over the place. People in Tel Aviv certainly love their street food.
Tel Aviv’s top street food places
(for a longer, fuller list, get the full DIY Tel Aviv guide, obviously)
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.
Shlomo Hamelech 1 * 03-5252033 * Sun – Thurs 9:30 – 23:00
Always busy and popular for a reason, this place will introduce you to all the local favourites with the vibe to match. If you want a crash course in everything that’s good about street food in Tel Aviv, start here. Enjoy everything from hummus, falafel and beyond. Perfect for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike. It’s not the cheapest, but is central, convenient, and good.
Saluf & Sons
Nahalat Binyamin 80 * 03-522-1344 * Sun – Thu 11:00 – 23:00, Fri 10:00 – 18:00
Famous chef, Jamie Oliver, filmed one of his shows in Tel Aviv in 2019 and visited Kerem Hateimanim (the Yemenite Quarter) to sample some of Tel Aviv’s best Yemenite food. While not in that part of town, this is a young, hip and authentic Yemenite restaurant that serves awesome hummus, as well a full menu of simple traditional dishes. Share space with a mixed, often young crowd, happy music and a party atmosphere. Unlike many of the places in the Yemenite Quarter, this place is open on weekday evenings and has a very good happy hour and special offers and both food and drink. They do takeaway, too, so you can pick up your food and have it elsewhere like a real street food joint.