A Tel Aviv Food Tour: From Halvah to Hummus
Want to learn a thing or two about eating in Tel Aviv? Right this way…
If you’re visiting Tel Aviv for the first time, the chances are your trip will soon turn into a culinary adventure without much forward planning involved. The reason? Israelis love to eat. Their passion for feasting can be felt in all corners of the country, but nowhere more so than in its most vibrant, surprising and eye-wateringly stylish metropolis. This is a city where good food is as easy to come by as an ancient landmark - or indeed a boat of sunstroke. Sit down at pretty much any restaurant and you’ll be met with a smorgasbord of delights, from fluffy pitas, succulent meats and freshly baked bread to prickly pears, pomegranate-spiked yogurt and the plumpest persimmons this side of the Red Sea.
So if you’re planning a cooking holiday in ‘the city that never sleeps’ (step aside, New York), you’ve come to the right place. Read on for our pick of Tel Aviv’s most sizzling neighbourhoods, popular food tours and local dishes you simply can’t miss.
Set aside a full day to explore historic Jaffa (or Japho, or Joppa…). This ancient port is a separate enclave from Tel Aviv, with a whole different personality to match. 4000-odd years of history radiates off the sand-coloured stone walls of the Old City, where winding cobblestone streets lead to incense-scented markets, bustling cafes and orange-tree shaded squares. There is a sleepier, more bohemian air to Jaffa, which of course makes it utterly irresistible. But beneath the sun-bleached stone and bobbing fishing lines, there is young energy at play - with many of the city’s best chefs choosing this as their playground. This is the place to find sizzling street food, craft coffee and exciting contemporary cooking - plus some very willing streetside backgammon opponents…
Once you’ve gotten your head around the pronunciation of Neve Tzedek (and feel comfortable saying it to a taxi driver), this will most likely become the area you return to again and again during your Tel Aviv food tour. Just picture this - Bauhaus architecture, little boutiques, frothy bougainvillea, cafes shaded by lemon trees; Tel Aviv’s first official Jewish neighbourhood has all the charms of a little Mediterranean village. Here, you’ll find traditional restaurants serving Israeli food at its very finest, low-key cafes and rooftop wine bars for sipping something cold on summer nights.
Ever-evolving and fuelled by a young, creative spirit, Florentin is often referred to as Tel Aviv’s very own Soho. Built around fabric warehouses and little markets, this is now the heart of Tel Aviv’s creative scene. Street art, live music bars, lively bars and groundbreaking restaurants make this the ideal setting for some serious food education.
With the prestigious Rothschild Boulevard at its heart, Lev Hair has been nicknamed ‘The White City’ thanks to its 4000 Bauhaus buildings. This is a well-kempt area, with the crowd to match, and will have you snooping in boutiques, strolling tree-lined streets and sipping coffees beneath olive trees all day long. And as for the evening, one thing could easily lead to another in a neighbourhood famous for its late-night bars and generous pours. Or was that just us…?
A word of warning - once you’ve tasted the real thing in Israel, you will never again be able to happily scoop up supermarket hummus with a carrot stick. Which is a small price to pay, considering how rich, smooth and addictive it is here. Wonderfully, it’s a staple of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacktime, and usually comes with a side of piping hot pita and a handful of fresh chickpeas on top for good measure.
It would be nothing short of a tragedy to end your Tel Aviv food tour without sampling this classic breakfast comfort food. Poached eggs are cooked in a slow, deep tomato sauce with peppers, spices and a hearty glug of olive oil. Plenty of places claim theirs to be the best, so we recommend trying a few. All in the name of culinary research, of course.
There are few first bites as satisfying and moreish than fresh, gently spiced falafel. When it comes smothered in tahini, pickles and onions in a pita pocket softer than a kitten’s chin? Unbeatable.
Don’t miss the sheer joy of this layered, syrup-soaked pastry filled with salty-sweet cheese. You’ll find this jewel-like treat stacked up in brassy pans at bakeries and cafes all over Tel Aviv, so you’re never far from your next hit of sweetness - or toothache, as the case may be.
If there’s the potential for anything to be scooped, buttered or mopped up, you’ll most likely find a basket of challah nearby. Using enriched dough, this fluffy, glossy bread is made with eggs and braided to give it its iconic shape. Make a pitstop at Lehamim bakery to watch the masters at work (and leave with a few loaves under your arm).
If all that kanafeh has given you a taste for the sweet life, make sure you sample as much halvah as possible while you’re here. Found in a dizzying array of flavours, this is essentially a tahini-based sweet made with nuts and an unthinkable amount of honey. Which is, of course, why we can’t get enough of the stuff.
Run by self-confessed food fanatics, Delicious Israel offers up the very best walking Tel Aviv food tour, showing you the most authentic side of Tel Aviv’s culinary scene (and encouraging a whole lot of snacking along the way). There is also the chance to join a local family for a Friday night Shabbat dinner, or to feast your way through Carmel Market with a local expert, followed by a cooking class at their studio.
Citrus & Salt
Join a local chef in their home kitchen to whip up a feast of Jewish holiday pastries, Medditeranean dishes or classic Israeli family feasts. Be sure to bring a notebook along - those pastries are trickier than they look…
Eat With Home Dinner
Gather round the table at chef Anat’s home for a traditional, cockle-warming Shabbat dinner. Inspired by family recipes passed down through generations, you’ll learn the secrets of traditional Jewish cooking before feasting on charcoal aubergine dip, chicken soup, roasted chicken, meatballs and fresh challah, followed by a sugar-dusted selection of cakes and cookies - all washed down with Israeli wine. You can also BYOB, just in case you’re feeling particularly parched after a day in the sun.
If this has you
drooling dreaming of a trip to TLV, explore our collection of unique homes in Tel Aviv and start planning your culinary adventure.