These are the places in Tel Aviv I’d go to when I needed a pick-me-up. A guaranteed go-to to bring visitors to impress them with Tel Aviv’s food scene. To celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, or the weekend.
I’ve been to each of these places at least 10x (most of them, more), and each time they deliver the same memorable experience. Their reliability is part of what makes them so special and what made each feel like a mini home-away-from home to me.
Top 10 Restaurants in Tel Aviv I Already Miss:
Local cuisine, eclectic
A mix of romantic and relaxed, this restaurant is the perfect for any occasion: dates, friends, parents, family dinners, etc. Famous for their shnitzel. Thin slices of meat coated in an herby mixture of bread crumbs, cooked to perfection with just the right amount of crispiness. Comes with a side of mashed potato puree and a small salad. Also a slice of lemon, and three dipping sauces: mustard, ketchup, and spicy mayo. Not the cheapest place, but totally worth it and a terrific place to bring people visiting Israel. I’ve gone here with friends visiting on Birthright, my parents, random people I sort of knew in college who would contact me when in town, co-workers, boyfriend’s family, family friends…and have ordered delivery from my couch. I also had a coupon for brunch once from work.
Dishes I <3:
- chicken shnitzel with mashed potato puree (main)
- Druze pita with tzaziki sauce (starter)
- Fatoush salad – thick chunks of tomato, cucumber and onion with feta cheese, olive oil and lemon
Local cuisine, eclectic
Image from mentalmanna.wordpress.com
A classy place, Orna & Ella is located on one of Tel Aviv’s prime shopping streets: Sheinkin. It’s a quintessential “ladies who lunch” type of place, with a sleek, minimalist interior. Crisp, white walls completely free of artwork or distractions nicely set off the stark white tablecloths. Once seated each table is presented with a clay jug of water, made of a heavy, earthy type of mud. My friend Emily fell in love with the jugs and I was able to buy one for her as a going-away present just before she moved back home to LA. Also see the write-up in NYTimes Travel for O&A’s “homey sense of intimacy
Dishes I <3:
- Yam potato pancakes with chive yogurt sauce – available in small and large portions (starter)
- Fig brioche with roquefort cheese, radish and a drizzle of balsamic reduction (starter)
- Gazpacho soup with side dish of diced garnishes including chives, croutons, red peppers and some other goodies (starter)
- “Kash” salad with iceberg lettuce, honeyed pecans and a light cheese with balsamic dressing
- Chicken curry on basmati rice with sauteed vegetables (main)
- Butternut squash tortellini (main)
- Veal scallopini in a white wine butter sauce served with capers, mashed potatoes and oyster mushrooms (main)
- Chicken with pomegranate and bulgur salad
Located on another hotspot street in Tel Aviv, Rustico is near the bottom of Rotschild Blvd. near Allenby. This is the place I’d go to to relax after an annoying day at work, get a bottle of wine and a big dish of hearty, filling delicious pasta. Rustico is another great “go to” for entertaining any type of dinner companion – great for families, dates, parents, friends, visitors to Israel, etc. The only only downside of this place is the music which became pretty random and sounded more Spanish than Italian, but either way it was annoying. I guess charming in a way though.
Dishes I <3:
- shrimps (as they call it in Israel) with white butter lemon sauce and bread (starter)
- artichokes with truffles and parmagiano (starter)
- “Dino” – penne pasta with tomato sauce, a bit of cream and herbs (main)
- “Di Parma” – cream, seasonal greens, smoked ham, garlic and parmagiano
- tagliatelle ribbons with lemon cream sauce and spinach
- orechiette pasta with lamb ragu, pine nuts and raisins (special, main)
- Caprese di bufala salad served on a rusticala bread
- tiramisu with a fork-silhouetted sprinkling of cocoa powder
- fresh pizzas
Local cuisine, Mediterranean, eclectic
An adorable place in Jaffa. All the furniture is from Shuk Ha’pishpishim – the Jaffa flea market. A super cosy and warm place to get a hot drink during the winter, or sit outside and people-watch during the summer night market. They also host late-night movies in the summer on Thursday nights.
Dishes I <3:
- Chicken with sauteed onions, lentils, raisins and a dill yogurt sauce
- Famous green tehini – thick, flavorful and savory
- Tasty fruity cocktails
- Warm apple cider
Soups, sandwiches, salads
Another place with a memorable ambiance. The Sonia is located off of King George, a main bustling street in the heart of Tel Aviv – but off a quiet side alley named for one of the city’s founders in honor of his wife. All the tables are set in a quaint, outdoor courtyard accessed through the restaurant’s tiny front entrance, past the kitchen and small bar. Each table is of a different colored mosaic, and all the plastic chairs are mismatched colors, randomly mixed in a playful arrangement. Downside: it’s a favorite for families with little kids on the weekends. Open for brunch on Shabbat – major plus. Lots of outlets make it a great place for working on the computer, and a tiny little fountain provides a relaxing backdrop and source of water for the occasional lucky cat.
Dishes I <3:
- Mexican shakshuka with ground beef and hot peppers
- Moroccan bread with several dipping sauces including pesto, sundried tomato, roasted red pepper and tehina
- Orange soup with carrot and some interesting spices – either cinnamon or nutmeg
- “Alice” – ham and cheese croissant sandwich
- Country salad with apples, cranberries and parmesan cheese
Around the corner from Pua (#3), Sifo is smack dab in an area in Jaffa where new places are sprouting like weeds. The owner is married to a graphic designer at the company I used to work at, which is random but I like telling people anyway. Tapas-like portions, really fun for groups.
Dishes I <3:
- Bottomless wine for 50nis
- Sifo salad
- Daily fish filet served with chickpeas and other good stuff
- K’nafeh dessert – an Arabic dish made of sugar and eggs, served in a hot skillet
Eclectic international, $$$
A fancy-pants chef’s restaurant good for when your parents visit, or verrry special occasions. Ranked one of the top 80 restaurants worldwide for interior design. Against the wall are tables with huge cushioned seats, with a mostly white color scheme. I went here over 2 years ago, so don’t remember specific dishes well enough but the overall experience made a strong impression. I’d love to go back one day when I’m rich.
Local, home-cooking cuisine
Local-style neighborhood-type place in Kerem Hateymanim (Yemenite quarter), very close to Shuk Ha-Carmel. A very good friend worked there as a waitress for a bit – was super fun to stop by at the end of her shift and sit outside with a cup of chai tea and wait for the last customer to leave. A good go-to for when you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for. Hearty, home-cooking style food with a bunch of Israeli classics like gulash, couscous, chopped liver, meatballs and a bunch of salads.
Huge selection of fresh soups, salads, sandwiches
A cute little lunch/dinner spot near Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square), with a huge menu full of hearty, filling dishes. Sandwiches, salads, soups. Perfect for meeting a friend.
10. Cafe Landver
Israel is chock full of coffee house chains. The “cafe culture” is vibrant in Tel Aviv; all of these places are filled to the brim, any time of day. There are a ton to choose from, each with its own slight variation on a theme: Aroma, Cafe Hillel, Cafe Cafe, Cafe Landver and Cafe Greg are some of the most popular. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts don’t hold a candle to these places.
My favorite is Cafe Landver – specifically the one inside Gan Meir, the dog park closest to my apartment. I let my dog run around freely while I enjoy breakfast, either by myself or with a friend.
This is also the place in my opinion for classic Israeli breakfast: eggs cooked any style you want, a choice of herbs and veggies to add in, served with a side salad, selection of spreads and cheeses, muezli and tuna. They also bring you a ridiculous bread basket to start, with cheese burekas, fresh rolls and warm toasted bread. Oh and it comes with a hot and cold drink. For less than $15 – plus time spent afterwards reading or watching the dogs play – it’s not a bad way to spend a lazy weekend morning. Plus they’re open on Shabbat 🙂