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Feb 14, 2011 05:12 PM

1st time Israel trip--looking for recommendations

I am traveling to Israel for the first time next week and will be spending a few days in Haifa, possibly briefly traveling through Caesaria and the Galil, and a week in Jerusalem. I would appreciate recommendations for kosher places to eat in those cities. Need not be fancy, does need to be inexpensive, falafel and shwarma is great, but feel free to make suggestions. Also (since my husband and kids are not coming along) I would love to bring some Israeli shelf-stable treats home to the US. What do those of you who know Israel well recommend?

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  1. I know that there will be serious foodie suggestions from many people posted here, but I urge you to make sure to have categories of experience that you cannot have at home.

    One of the most purely fun experiences that I ever ever had while traveling was walking into a perfectly mundane food court in a perfectly mundane mall in israel. The restaurants were pretty standard. A pizza place, a burger joint, a Chinese stir-fry, etc. But for my entire life I've been walking through mall food courts on my way to the ladies room and sometimes buying maybe... a Coke. In this mall (true only in certain malls) everything had a hechscher, it was fun!

    Eat street food. There are neighborhoods where you can!

    And go to Machane Yehuda and buy all the treats you want, cheese, smoked fish, olives, pastries - whatever you want, the place has many supervised vendors. I've walked through public markets all over the world looking at the smoked sausages and exotic pickles and buying... fruit. Sometimes exotic fruit, but never a sausage or a fruit pie. In the public markets of Israel, I can! It's like being a kid in a candy store. A kosher candy store. they have those, too.

    6 Replies
    1. re: AdinaA

      We just recommended to a friend who's going this week to make sure he stops in McDonald's and gets a McKebab. No, it's not all that good but it's just oddly fun ordering at a McDonald's. And the wrappers make fun souveniers for the kids. We still have ours after nearly 4 years.

      Go to a steakiya, eat kubbe on a Friday afternoon, get a sabich, if it's unfamiliar, go for it. Go crazy at Machane Yehudah, but one caveat. Don't try to bring a few pounds of dried fruit through airport security. Seriously, it shows up on the X-rays just the same as plastique explosive. The security personnel are used to dumb Americans doing this, but it made for an interesting experience at 4:30 AM at Ben Gurion.

      1. re: rockycat

        We've brought back dried pineapple (NOT the sugared kind) MANY times and in large quantities. If we're asked, we say we have candy...because that's what it really is.
        Once brought home fresh peaches that my cousin insisted we take from his moshav. And don't ask about the grasshopper...
        But yes, it's an amazing experience to be able to stop at just about any restaurant/dive/hole-in-the-wall and be able to buy yummy, fresh food.
        And don't forget KFC!

      2. re: AdinaA

        Stop by Marzipan in the Machane Yehudah shuk for rogallach. Makes me drool thinking about them.

        1. re: Pluckyduk8

          There is a Marzipan location on Rahel Imenu at Emek Refaim with a sit down cafe. Great for breakfast, brutal on my waistline ...
          They will wrap their pastries for you to take back with you (if you can resist eating them on the trip home).

          1. re: mamaleh

            It's a good thing they weren't around on Emek the previous times I was in Israel as it is walking distance from several of my family members. That would have been very dangerous.

          2. re: Pluckyduk8

            You'll know exactly where it is in the shuk-- just follow the amazing smell! I remember we brought several boxes back to the hotel planning on bringing some back home... none of it ever made it on the plane!!

        2. I liked Aresto in the port in Caesaria. I got a the Cheese platter which was filled with a variety of local cheeses and fresh baked breads. To echo Adina, it's the type of dish you see in treif restaurants but never see on the menu of kosher restaurants(not to mention a better cheese selection than you'll find in the US).

          1. as discussed in a previous thread Maoz on Melech George st in Jerusalem for Falafel and Shawarma


            1. For treats to bring home I recommend israeli candy bars/chocolate. There are many varieties but the "pesek zman" is a favorite. It has hazelnut in it so if your kids have nut allergies, skip this. Israeli chocolate bars are delicious and you can buy them in the regular grocery store or makolet (israeli bodega) or of course in duty free.

              at you can print out coupons for dinners at some of the best kosher restaurants in Jerusalem so check there for discounts before heading out to dinner.

              4 Replies
              1. re: UWSFoodie

                pesek zman and many other candy bars from israel are sold here in the US

                1. re: koshergourmetmart

                  Yes, but depending on where in the US you live, they are impossible to get. We live in NC. You just don't get Israeli candy here.

                  My kid's Hebrew teacher brings her Psak Zman as a treat for doing well with her lessons and she also loves the Elite bars with adashim (mini M&M type candies).

                  1. re: rockycat

                    It's no longer impossible to get this stuff in NC, all you need is a website, creditcard and mailing address


              2. I'm going back to Israel in April and am looking this time for some off the wall type places or types of food that I can't eat in Chicago (Thai, Ethiopian maybe, fun things). However, there are some places that I like that aren't so off the wall which are really nice. In Tiberias there's an asian restaurant called Pagoda that overlooks the Kinneret and is a nice place to sit and eat. My favorite falafel place is in Afula and unless you are driving through there on your way back from up north you won't get to it. T'mol Shilshom in Jerusalem also has a nice dining environment. Jerusalem has a lot of good steakhouses and Argentinian type places where the meat is free flowing if you like that kind of thing.