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the best food in Israel?

We are going to be traveling to Israel in February for a few weeks, and we haven't been there in 17 years. We are looking to eat at the best restaurants and the best felafel stands. We are interested to experience a uniquely Israeli take on the food of the region rather than eating the best Italian, French, sushi, etc. that Israel has to offer. What do you suggest? I saw Elyse Goldstein's food tour of Israel mentioned on this site, but we will be traveling with a local group from Boston- with opportunities to eat a few meals on our own in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat. Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.

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  1. The most satisfying and tastiest food I've had in Israel has been from the small falafel and shawarma stands that you find - and it's all so reasonably priced.

    My best advise for eating in Israel is to avoid the touristy locations - seek out where the locals eat (your Israeli guide or the tour bus driver is usually a good one) by asking them - where do you go to eat not where should I go. Typical Israeli choice would be salads and grilled meats.

    For falafel look for stands with a variety of salads and turnover. And don't forget the bakeries with fresh bourekas, pitas and pastries.

    Depending on your mobility in an industrial part of Natanya is Jacko - a top notch fish restaurant that's been around forever that serves a delicious array of salads & fish -not cheap but worth the trip if you like fish especially grilled. They may have other locations but Natanya is the one to go to.

    In Jerusalem I would avoid the food in Mahane Yehuda - tourist quality, tourist prices.

    In Eilat the most delicious meal I had was after asking my desert Jeep excursion guide where he ate and he took me to a restaurant (once again in an industrial area - do we see a theme here?) with a variety of salads and grilled meats. Sorry don't remember the name but boy was that a good meal.

    Enjoy Israel - it is simply a fantastic place to visit and chow - and let us know how it turns out.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pizza Lover

      Pizza Lover, did you mean Ben-Yehuda instead of Machaneh Yehuda? Machane Yehuda is where Jerusalemites (including this one) go to buy fresh food of all sorts. It isn't a restaurant; mostly stands, small stores, and bakeries. Ben Yehuda is the pedestrian mall where all the tourists go. I keep my distance from there.

      I live near the Talpiot Industrial zone and do not have to walk far to find excellent grilled meat and hummus. Thee are several on Yad Harutzim. And I am also near a burekas factory. Tourists don't frequent my area. There are also a number of very good grilled meat places on Agrippas. This used to be a poor neighborhood but now it is near a popular place to live and the meateries do have tour groups come through (generally for lunch). Locals still go to the restaurants.

      1. re: Pizza Lover

        With Jacko, the further you go from home base, the worse it gets. Home is on Kehillat Saloniki , north(/) of Kikar Paris in Haifa. It is excellent and cheap. (Always go to the business lunch- everywhere.) Also very good is the branch on Moriah St on the Carmel. Excellent (heimish, if you came from Turkey) salads, fish and surprisingly good desserts. Netanya is so-so.
        Look out (as in beware ) for a lot of the places where where the locals eat. There is a lot of bad Ashkenazi and Mughrabi cooking. Its like going to London and eating working class.

      2. I haven't been there in a long time, but for a lovely meal check out "Dag al haDan", which translates to "Fish on the Dan (River)" It's waaaaay up north, north of Kiryat Shemona. A fish restaurant in a beautiful setting. It's worth going up north anyway.... very different experience than the central Tel Aviv/Jerusalem experience most tourists get!

        I also have to mention a tiny little mountain town called Peki'in, where you can watch Iraqi-style pita made and immediately stuffed with Labeneh, a wonderful sour white cheese, and za'atar, a terrific middle-eastern spice. You want authentic, off the tourist path food, this is it! Again, in a beautiful setting.

        Have a wonderful trip!

        1 Reply
        1. re: mamamk

          Unfortunately, we are not going to go north of Tel Aviv on this visit. Those restaurants sound good. We will be in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Eilat with a few stops in between.

        2. Tel Aviv
          Raphael in the dan hotel
          Okinawa (best sushi)
          mul yam
          coffee bar


          1. Hi Veggielover,

            I guess what you are looking for is to get a taste of some or most of those local goodies:

            Hummus +Foul

            I'd love to try and lead a group of (overseas) foodies to Israel's "Taste of the best", (at least for my own taste buds). I know some of the best places, and hope I’m available (after 20th Feb).

            Only issues are how many are you, how long can you allow for such a tour. We'll have to manage our tour very carefully, with the (hopefully) help of all restaurants /food stalls/ holes in the wall Etc as most of the dishes in this list are very fulfilling, and if you'd wish to taste a lot, a quarter portion of each should suffice…

            Let me know how this sounds?

            1. There are a number of excellent restaurants in Israel. Bruno in Tel Aviv is fantastic. It is located in the Azrieli Center, an archiecturally stunning office/ shopping complex. Orna and Ella on Rehov Sheinkin is a young, happening cafe serving light meals all day and more substantial dinners. Orca in Tel Aviv is sensational and Lilith, near Rehov Sheinkin is dairy/vegetarian and also outstanding. Enjoy!

              2 Replies
              1. re: rifbat

                Orna rocks! Get the Sweet potato pancakes or the everything salad( salat ha kol)
                I love Tapeo in Telaviv, a tapas bar but so good although you are prob looking for Israeli food

                1. re: savvy savorer

                  We are looking for Israeli food or Israeli influenced food. I have heard Orna mentioned before. Thanks for the suggestion.

              2. Hi there, as an Israeli that lives in the center I can suggest one of the best Falafel places is called "Gina". you can find 1 near Azrieli center in Hashalom rd. and one in Jaffa near Blumfield stadium. Local and good reasturants in Tel-Aviv ( I eat there a lot) are:

                Cafe Noir - 43 Hachad Ha'ham st, phone 5663018
                Carmella bistro - 14 Rambam st. phone 5161417
                Benjamin Siegel - Opera tower , phone 5166224

                good places to eat in Jerusalem which I will recommend R:
                Cielo - 18 Ben-Sira st. phone: 02-6251132
                Arcadia - 10 Agripas st.

                Should you need more help , pls dont hasitate to ask.

                Elinoar - Israel

                1 Reply
                1. re: shedevil

                  Thanks. Of course, I am looking for the best Falafel all over Israel

                2. We are visiting Israel right now. The best place in Tel Aviv I know is Kimmel, which is right adjacent to Shalom Tower. In J'Lem, the best places so far ( in order) are Ima / Ema (on Agrippas near Machne Yehuda), Dolphin Yam (downtown), Coffit, and Joy ( both on Emek Refaim Street). Of course you grab a falafel schwarma or schnitzel on the street for lunch.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bel886

                    I think you will be happy with just about any meal you have in Israel. I don't know if it's the climate or what but fruits and vegetables are pretty great wherever you eat. if you're coming from a big meat town/country, you won't be overly impressed by the steak, but it's better than it was in the past. here are some ideas for places to go: http://www.shiksainisrael.com/restaur...

                  2. no matter what you do, try to eat in local, home style resturaunts - not the ones that were made to impress tourists. You will definantly get the best tastes and experiences there. Try to eat in different ethnic neighborhoods. For example, try Pizza Uri in Jerusalem's religous neighborhoof of Geula

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: babas

                      The best meal we had in Israel was in a local, nondescript restaurant in Hadera. Great meze of salads, grilled meats, and warm pita. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant.

                        1. re: JudgeMaven

                          Where was that? I live in Rehovot.



                          1. re: jaybee

                            I presume you're asking me?

                            Truth is, I don't know. We were visiting the Weitzman in July and didn't feel like driving back to Jerusalem for dinner. We wandered the main street, stopped in a SuperPharm, and crossed back over the street. The place was set back off the main street, kind of up a small alley. It was just wide enough to accomodate a counter and a few tables with almost no room to pass between. Very much a dive. Oh, yes. And the requisite cats hanging around outside.

                          2. re: JudgeMaven

                            The restaurant in Hadera is Sami Bakikar.
                            In Jerusalem we enjoyed the pomegranete steak salad and the eggplant appetizer at Olive. We had a fine meal at the Carmela Bistro in Tel Aviv. We loved the breakfasts at the Carleton Hotel in Tel Aviv, and I had a memorable tuna sandwich one afternoon in their bar.

                          3. re: veggielover

                            My most memorable meal was in a hole-in-the-wall Moroccan place off the main street in Rechovot. The owner's buddies came in to hang out and, since I wasn't eating due to the intense heat, I sat around with them yapping and working the crossword in Hebrew while Spouse and Offspring had dinner. It felt like a Mizrahi "Cheers." Oh yeah, the family says the food was pretty good, too.

                            1. re: rockycat

                              please refresh your memory and give details so that we can find it. Credit card bill?

                            2. re: veggielover

                              Please, please refresh your memory and post whatever details that will help me find it. Are you sure it wasn't in Or Akiva?
                              There I recommend Benny Tsur and Sons, on Rothschild. You drive down the street at the exit for the mall (from the highway) and its after two traffic circles, on th e left, shiny metal chimney.

                          4. Uri Buri in Acco (just up the coast a bit from Haifa, with a nice view of Haifa - also written as Acre or Akko) is a delicious seafood restaurant. They do a very good job with fish and seafood both, ranging from raw to cooked-just-right (for calibration, I find most "standard" places overcook seafood and fish a little bit (and sometimes a lot)). Each dish is a relatively simple and fresh combination of two or three well-paired flavors. Get their "tasting menu," which means they keep serving different items until you give in. FWIW, I know several Haifa residens who say that it's the best restaurant in Haifa (even though it's not actually in Haifa).

                            Uri Buri is a little on the expensive side - with wine & dessert it came to about 250 sheckels/person. You might want reservations (04-9552212), as it's not a large place and is fairly popular. Their dinner hours seemed a touch on the early side (cleared out by 9:30 or 10). They're located right by the lighthouse in old Acco (address is "Light House Place"); Acco is a reasonable train ride from Tel Aviv, and old Acco is an interesting place to look around for a day.

                            I see there's a longer post also mentioning Uri Buri (with one naysayer): http://www.chowhound.com/topics/266162

                            Also near Haifa is a place I've heard about but haven't been to called Rak Knafeh ("just knafeh"), between Haifa & Dalia El Carmel. Said to be the best knafeh in Israel, it has very limited days of operation and hours on those days (closes when they run out of the batch they made for the day), so you should do some research before showing up. (Knafeh/knafe/kanafeh/kunafeh/etc is a sweet arabic dessert with shredded phyllo, white cheese, and syrup; apparently their version is delicious and not sickeningly sweet like most.)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: grg

                              How would you say the knafeh at Rok Knafeh compares to what is available in Nablus?

                              1. re: unamuno200

                                Best knafe this days is found at the "newer wave" arab restaurants, became a popular dessert dish for 2 or 4 etc. Sometimes with interesting variations and thanks god, without the orange food coloring. I'm not so familiar with Rak Knafe, don't remember having a real "knafe holy grail" in that area but did not investigate.. Dalia Tel Carmel is unfortunately not a great culinary area except for eating at local houses "-) The resto scene pretty lame in my opinion.

                            2. I've lived here in Jerusalem for a year, and the best falafel and schwarma places in my experience have been just the little mom n' pop stands run by arabs. My favorites are the falafel stands on har hatzofim (mt scopus), near gevat tzafradit (french hill) and kfar hastudentim (the student village...dorms). They're also super cheap too, costing about 10 shekels for a falafel with the works in a lafa

                              1. in Jerusalem, we had amazing ethiopian near the old city on Jaffa st. I don't have the resto name, but its near the large Post Office building, about a 4 minute walk from the Jaffa gate.

                                In Tel Aviv-Jaffo, I suggest Itzik Hagadol. its amazing shishlik and salads!

                                1. Had some of the best ales I've ever tasted anywhere (and I used to brew my own) at Danny's art bar in Ein Hod. These are brewed on site, and Danny is a world-class brewmeister. His pizzas are wonderful too, but the ales were really outstanding.