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Best food (any price pt) Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Galil?

We're coming to Israel in May this year.

My fiancee and I are foodies but, when traveling, we like to stick to a tighter budget.

We were looking for suggestions for incredibly tasty foods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and in the Galil/Golan.

In TA, I'm definitely hitting Itzik HaGadol. that kind of food/experience is totally what we're after.
Exceptional falafel would be great. The best rogelach or food in Shuq Machaneh Yehudah would also be great to hear about.

Any little tidbits, like the best street vendor for freshly-squeezed orange juice, or a great place to buy spices, or perhaps the best Ethiopian resto in Israel (i personally like the place on Yaffo st in Jerusalem near the old city) are great things I'd love to hear.

The more down to earth, the happier we will be. and please, nothing touristy.

Look forward to your replies

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  1. Can't help you as much with Tel Aviv and the Galil (though personally I'm dying to try this place called the Milk Man and the Witches Caldron in the Golon - can't say if it's good or bad though at this point, it's really close to Nimrod), but I think I have some good Jerusalem recommendations.

    In the Machaneh, the best restaurant is called Azure and is located in the Iraqi Market. If the shuk is divided into too main streets, the Iraqi market is in a side loop furthest away from the Old City and closert to Jaffo than Agrippas. Azure is mentioned in Lonely Planet and totally worth it, best kube soup and they only make the part of the their menu for the ingredients they can get super fresh. Best ruggelah from the shuk (according to just about anyone here) is from Marzipan which is located inbetween a liquor and candy store outside the shuk on Agrippas going towards the Ben Yehuda area.

    Best falafel is one of those things that vary based on your preference of either the falafel balls vs the toppings. However, the falafel place at the end of the main road furthest away from the Old City on Agrippas across from Aroma says they have the best and if you go during the day, definitely has the freshest. Shalom Falafel on Bezalel also gets good reviews (my personal favorite is located by Hebrew University near French Hill and isn't really worth the trip unless you happen to be staying in the Hyatt).

    Best street food is to be found near the Damascus gate on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Personally my favorite kebab vendor is the second guy away from the Damascus gate across the street. There's a guy who does kebabs and some kinda offal looking thing I've never had the nerve to ask about and then the guy after him - though in all fairness the stuff looks pretty similar. There's also a guy around the Damascus gate who makes something that looks an awful lot like churros. Those kebabs should never be more than 10 sheckles and you should get two kebabs of meat in your pita. Also by the Damascus gate is the Jerusalem Hotel which possibly has one of the nicest "middle eastern" dining experiences at pretty fair prices. Friday night is the best there cause they have live music, but for then you need reservations but it's really worth it. You can easily do a couple drinks, a meal, and a shisha for less than 100 sheckles a person. There's another Middle Eastern restaurant in the Old City in the Arab Market. From Damascus gate, if you take the road that takes you away from the Dome of the Rock and Western Wall, it's the second restaurant you'll see on your right. My roommate claims it's the best Shish Tawook she's ever had in her life.

    The Ethiopian restaurant you mentioned on Jaffa is still the best Ethiopian restaurant that I'm aware of, and also near there there's this soup place - where the name and the street are escaping me, but if you ask at your hotel for the restaurant that just has soup - they should know what it is. In terms of Jerusalem "finer dining", admittedly when I do that I usually seek out food from home that I can't get here often (esp. sushi) - and it's hardly amazing. Cafe Rimon is a better taste of Jerusalem tourist dining (nice representation of Israeli cuisine) - but it is straight up tourist. However, most restaurants in Jerusalem, Arab or Israeli, are going to have English menus - so all of them do slightly cater to tourists, but some are just more worth it than others.

    For buying spices I personally haven't found one amazing place, though there is a store on Aggrippas that's pretty good. In general the Macheneh or the suk in the Old City (no where they sell spices in the Market leading from Jaffo, that's clearly a tourist market) have fairly similar quality. And anyone who tries to sell you saffron totally worth running far far away from.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cresyd

      The soup place you are referring to is Marakiya and is located on Coresh St.

      1. re: cresyd

        The falafel place that you're mentioning, though out of the way, makes what I think is the best falafel in the city. Tons of well-made, fresh ingredients to put in; the falafel balls are usually a minute or two old, if that much. They're incredibly well-priced (9 shekels for a pita, 14 for a laffa), friendly, and do brisk business. There are places to sit. It looks like a real-live, authentic palestinian falafel joint.

      2. Best rugelach definitely Marzipan in Machaneh Yehuda. Friday morning is a madhouse, but loads of fun. We've taken them back to the states (Marzipan provides plastic boxes for travelers) and they were even great frozen then defrosted.
        Food - try Darna, on Horkenos just off Jaffa Road (tiptoeing over the construction craters). Amazing Moroccan food, beautiful restaurant...strange waitresses...
        Enjoy!

        2 Replies
        1. re: DebbyT

          I second Marzipan for rugelach! I especially liked the cinnamon version. Ooey and gooey! :)

          1. re: junglekitte

            I will 3rd Marzipan. I stubled across it and in a word, the pastries are amazing.

        2. Hello! My husband and I just returned from Israel and I've been all over the world but Israel has the best food i've ever eaten. There's an incerdibly good italian-mediterranian restaurant in tel aviv called Boccaccio. Web address is www.boccaccio.co.il. I had the fettuccini marinara (creamy) with seafood and the chocolate cake...the chocolate cake was the best ever. It was near the beach and very down to earth. It was obviously family owned and run. There are two hotels in the old city in jerusalem that had good food: the Legacy and the American Colony. The hotels have tourists but don't seem touirsty because everyone is visitng form different countries and speaking different languages. Try the St. Peters fish grilled or baked (they serve it at many restaraunts.) It's really good. Have a safe trip!

          5 Replies
          1. re: cherietownsend

            I'll second the recommendation for Boccacio. It's on Hayarkon across the street from the Dan Tel Aviv, and has extremely fresh pasta and several great veal dishes (we particularly liked the Egel Boccaccio with the Port Wine reduction).

            A couple of other restaurants worth trying in Tel Aviv/Jaffa if you want to get something off the beaten track, but still relatively fine dining, would be Nanotchka on Lillenblum (a Georgian bistro/bar) and Poyke in Jaffa, which is a South African steakhouse.

            Also, a good reference for dining in Israel, particularly Tel Aviv, is the Haaretz Friday Magazine, which is in English.

            1. re: sdrucker

              The reviewer is David Rogov. I have eaten along his trail because of a lack of choice- don't speak Hebrew- and I can tell you that it is a trail of broken dreams.

              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                that sounds very sad :)

                went to Israel in May 2009. forgot about my post, so i thought i would follow up with the restos i ate at. by the way, just a warning to you all: had our car broken into in Caesaria. jerks stole everythings. but anyways...

                Tel Aviv: Agenda, near Dizzingoff Mall. Excellent shwarma. and i normally wouldn't rave about shwarma, but its excellent there.
                Itzik HaGadol - kind of touristy, but i still think all the salads plus the shishlik you get it excellent and worth it. go there hungry.
                Abu Hassan - their humus and masabacha is unbelievable. their ful was ok. worth the visit.

                Jerusalem: Marzipan - rugelach are unreal.
                In Shuk Machaneh Yehudah, just off of Aggripas, there's an alleyway near the entrance. there's a small cafe in that alleyway across from the butchershop. they have excellent shakshuka and great pancakes and make a nice latte.

                in the Galil/Golan: we stayed in Rosh Pina. the food itself in Rosh Pina was not amazing except there was a good falafel/humus restaurant at the foot of the city near the first traffic circle. it has a large patio. its known for its humus.
                the best restaurant was a shishlik grill on Rte 90 5 minutes south of Rosh Pina in a Paz gas station on the east side of the highway. very good food and salads.
                otherwise, we ate at Julia's in Rosh Pina and it was probably our most mediocre meal while in Israel.

                Rosh HaNiqra - there is a really cool Golan Brewpub in the park. when i say "cool", i mean that its nice to be able to get Israeli beer other than Goldstar or Maccabi. and Golan beer is pretty good. the food was good/above average. the view was spectacular.

                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                  Do you have any recommendations from when you strayed from Rogov's suggestions?

                  1. re: rickshawpete

                    Please see my posts further .

                    Addendum .
                    Petra is now in Ness Ziona. The food is still very good, but he room is deafeningly noisy. I felt as if I had gone 10 rounds in a boxing ring and had lost. Sorry, but I will not return except in real off hours. Replaced in Rehovot by :

                    Fresco, 23 Herzl, Rehovot, hidden behind a screen next to a supermarket, second from the corner.
                    Brilliantlty named and a huge bargain. Roumanesque., second or third generation. By this I mean that much garlic and vinegar have been displaced by sweet. . Six salads for the table, another 20 in the salad bar. Good ingredients, and even if you would prefer an acidic dressing , many are good. NIS 45 for salads alone, but a real deal with a main. NIS 55 if you have the Roumanian kebob ( quite good and kiddie friendly) with salads. Same with salmon NIS79. The chicken schnitzel was a big piece of real chicken. All mains come with good potato wedges. Large portions. Salmon enough for two and succeeded in getting kitchen to follow request, cook less than usual.

                    Went with Ms and 4 smallish children. Was considered an American tourist by the waiter and he was a gracious host. See contra, El Babour above.
                    Enjoy

            2. For spices you must go to the Levinski spice market in south Tel Aviv. Not easy to get to, but worth it. It is one of the real Israeli experiences. Mountains of spices, nuts, and dried fruit. Also a good place to try turkish bourekas - there are at least two places with a large selection. Also Turkish and Persian restaurants with simple but tasty food. Note that this is not the same as the Carmel Market, which is better known but not as interesting.

              In Tel Aviv I like Manta Ray and Pini BeChazer - both on the beach between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Beautiful views and great food - even though the two usually don't go together. For more upscale Herbert Samuel is not far from there. Very popular, and everyone sits at the bar.

              I'm not a big fan of Jerusalem restaurants, but Adom and Terra are two good choices. In the hills outside Jerusalem, the Midbach shel Rama provides nice, al fresco dining, and should be open by May.

              The Golan and Upper Galilee I find to be a bit of a culinary wasteland. It's set up for the loads of Israeli tourists who come up for weekends. The Western Galilee has better offerings. Acco is a great place to eat, as well as being the most beautiful Arab city in Israel. Kibbutz Cabri has a good restaurant, and Tarschica has good food (and the best Arab pastries I've tasted in Israel).

              Finally, here are two good, English foodie websites in Israel. http://www.israelikitchen.com/
              http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/

              Mostly recipes, but they also write about their culinary travels in Israel.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MarkC

                Thanks for suggesting my blog, Mark. There is a very interesting restaurant in Kfar Rama in the Galil called Ezba that I recommend and have blogged about. And, you must go to Uri Burri in Acco. It is the best fish restaurant in the country. Also, Al Babour restaurant in Umm al Faham and Diana in Nazareth..

              2. PS If you're feeling intrepid, you can try Hummus Lina in the old city in Jerusalem. Through Damascus gate, make a right at the restaurant with the big coca-cola sign, about half way up on the left. A hole in the wall, it's rated as among the best in Israel. You can also ask any of the locals how to get there. Everyone's friendly and speaks English. Nearby, on one of the main arteries that skirts a pinkish church, there's a vendor that sells kadaif - pancakes which are folded around a filling of nuts or cheese and then coated with syrup and baked in an oven. Tasty and fun, you have to get lucky to find him open. Once he told me that he opens when the local schools let out, so I guess around mid-afternoon.

                Half the fun will be finding these places. It's a kind of adventure, but totally safe.