Tel Aviv - The Food and Restaurants We Loved
We had been in Tel Aviv for just a couple of days and I had a lot of restaurants marked on my list for us to try. Once we arrived, however, and realized just how expensive it is here and we had to make some adjustments to our list to try to stay in budget. This was easier said than done, but I think we managed all right. Since we stayed in an apartment hotel (Rena's House) we were able to make our own breakfasts and save some shekels there. We did some research on cheap eats in Tel Aviv and thanks to theculturetrip.com and "like a local" we found some good options.
There is a the Rothschild-Allenby Market which is really more of a food hall than market, in my opinion. We stopped by here on our first night but nothing really called to me. This might have been because this was our first real glimpse of how expensive Israel is, but we decided to try our hand at this Taqueria I read about. Taqueria is just a short walk from the market and we were seated right away. The food was good, Zac had a pork burrito and I had a veg burrito. We had some hot sauces which made the fresh tasting food taste even better. The meal was about $30 which is quite dear for two burritos and a non-alcoholic beverage. The place was super busy and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
We had lunch at Miznon which is supposed to have interesting sandwich fillings at a good price. It was super loud in the restaurant but it had a cool vibe. I opted for a bean pita and Zac had the ratatouille. I had heard the cauliflower was amazing and so we splurged for one of those too. A few minutes later a nicely charred whole cauli came our way! It was beautiful and had great flavor but this was too much food. The pitas were good, however, I really liked Zac's better. We ended up taking the cauli to go which made for a great cheap dinner addition for another night. All told I think this was near $40 so again, expensive for what it was.
Our favorite place we went, however, was the Birenbaum Cafe. I really wanted to go here and was willing to pay the price for a sit in restaurant. The cafe is cute and super popular with local people. For lunch you can order the amazing hot/cold buffet for $13! All you can eat. Before you go thinking I am a typical American who loves buffets and all you can eat, I am not. I generally stay away from them like the plague. BUT. One look at the beautiful vegetarian salads and pies on offer and I was hooked. This place was incredible. We had a sample of everything and there was only one dish that did not hit the mark. We HIGHLY recommend Birenbaum cafe.
Hummus Abu Hassan
We did get to what many people consider to be the best hummus in Tel Aviv (it's actually in Jaffa) - Hummus Abu Hassan. I thought it was good, but too thick to me. Apparently I don't like ful which is what was on top. For some reason it carries a strong sulfurous odor to me and all I could think of was vomit. Zac really liked it, though I had to get up and leave before finishing. The place was crowded and everyone seemed to really love what they were eating. Guess I am the odd one. I preferred the hummus we had the night before at Mshawashe.
Since we're on the topic of hummus I should mention Mshawashe. This was really the best hummus we had while in Israel. At least that's my opinion. It wasn't as thick and cloying as some others and it was served warm. We stopped here for a quick small dinner and were not disappointed. We opted to have sauteed mushrooms added to the hummus and this turned out to be a superb choice. They also have this spicy green sauce (you should make sure to ask for lots of it) that we even asked for extra to take back to our room and have on our cauliflower leftovers from Miznon. The space itself is simple and looks much cuter in the daylight. The service was quick and super friendly. Grab a table outside and do some people watching as you dive into some of the best hummus you will have.
We had Hanoi on our list but didn't make it here until our return trip for our last night in Israel. Zac was asking for dinner recommendations at the front desk of the CuCu Hotel and the woman working said we should DEFINITELY eat at Hanoi. She was kind enough to book us a table, as apparently this place is super busy. Luckily, she was able to get us in! First of all, I think SE Asian food is our favorite cuisine and we both had been hankering for it for a while. The smells when we entered we fantastic and took us right back to being in Vietnam. The service was super friendly, and while there is no English menu, the servers were able to explain everything to us very clearly. They also settled us in with complimentary glasses of sake and some Jasmine tea. Both were excellent. We settled on the Spicy Salty Tofu appetizer and the Malaysian Spinach Balls in a curry sauce. The tofu was perfectly fried and covered in subtly spicy red and green peppers. We added a bit of this salty sauce that was at the table which really elevated the dish. The Malaysian Spinach Balls were in a heavy-ish coconut cream curry sauce and were accompanied by a few pieces of Bok Choi. The flavor was great and the texture of the balls was soft but also a bit crispy. I would have liked more vegetables, but I always want more vegetables. We decided that we wanted more of these flavors and added the Roti Chenai to our order. This was also super tasty, though probably not necessary. The restaurant was indeed busy and people were waiting for our table. We would definitely recommend this place for when you want something other than falafel or hummus.
This was our last meal in Tel Aviv and boy am I glad we were able to get here. The sabich is a vegetarian sandwich served in pita bread and is expertly crafted at this little shopfront off Frishman. We were told by the guy who perfectly made our sandwich that there would be eggplant, potato and hard boiled egg as the base and then he asked if we wanted everything else added. Everything else included some hummus, tahini, cabbage, hot sauce, onions, herbs and several other items. While we waited we filled small silver dishes with pickled carrots, cucumbers and more cabbage. While we both had our sabich in a pita, you can also have it served in a bowl. This was not a super light lunch, but it was the best sandwich we had while in Israel, hands down.