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Aug 24, 2013 04:21 PM

Solo Dining in Tel Aviv

I'm a 40-something gay dude planning my first trip to Israel. I'll be spending most of my nine days in Tel Aviv and I'll be on my own. While I'm perfectly happy to eat at a table by myself, I'm especially interested in places that have a bar or counter - tends to be a lot more fun for the single diner. From the research I've done so far, these are some of the restaurants that have made it onto my list for "good food and/or fun atmosphere":

Orna & Ella
Herbert Samuel
Gedera 26
Cordelia/Noa Bistro

I suspect some may be better for solo dining and I'd appreciate any feedback pro or con for any of these places - as well as any suggestions for other restaurants. I should also add that I cannot speak or read Hebrew (I know! I'm terrible) so places without an English menu could be problematic...

A few places that I've ruled out are Catit and Mul-yam (probably a little hoity-toity for solo dinner) and Manta Ray (the reviews seems really mixed).

Any and all assistance is welcome and appreciated!

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  1. We'll be in Israel with a few nights in Tel Aviv so I'm looking forward to replies here. Thanks for posting. BTW, where did you find the above info? I like doing research also.

    5 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      There's a post here on Chowhound re. Tel Aviv with many, many replies - it's very helpful, but a lot to wade through. Trip Advisor is useful, to a degree - but you have to take it with a grain of salt. A couple of places were mentioned to me by friends who've visited. And the rest were just the result of various Google searches online.

      The one place that seems to get consistently favorable reviews is Herbert Samuel, so you might want to add that to your itinerary first.

      1. re: ejcsanfran

        Thanks. Great info. I have recently found that Trip Advisor can be good for intl. destinations, i.e., Istanbul.

        1. re: ejcsanfran

          I'd have to read more of his/her reviews but how could anything be that bad???

          1. re: c oliver

            Roshfeld's original restaurant was really excellent. It was about food. Now he has his hand in a bunch of different places together with other investors. It's about profit. The food in Herbert Samuel was wildly inconsistent. The food in Tapas Ahad Ha'am was better, but the place was too noisy for us.

        2. re: c oliver

          You won't have any problem with English in most places. And if you do, you point.
          These days one is expected to tip in Israeli restaurants. Many even include "Service not included" on the bill. Ten percent is widely considered the proper amount.

        3. I don't really know what is best for a single diner, but I agree with your decision on Manta Ray. I would put Raphael in the same category as Catit and Mul Yam. I am not a fan of Herbert Samuel. One place that you could try is Haminzar, a bar that is open 24/7 with simple food. I would guess that it's easier to start conversations here than at some other places. Another very simple place, not far from Haminzar is Little Prague, where you can sit at the bar. Bertie is great. One of my favorite places is Habasta, also known as Basta.

          7 Replies
          1. re: bcc

            Slightly OT but in Tel Aviv should we anticipate that many people will speak English? We were recently in Turkey and while out in the countryside English was rare in Istanbul it was uncommon. Between Hebrew and Arabic, I'm down for the count :)

            1. re: c oliver

              Many if not most people will speak English especially in Tel Aviv. We rarely had a problem even when not in the major cities.

              1. re: FoodDee

                Thanks a lot for that! It's great to be able to talk about food...and other things :)

              2. re: c oliver

                Tel Aviv is very English heavy - though compared to Jerusalem you are more likely to find restaurants that don't have English menus.

              3. re: bcc

                Good to know, bcc. It's funny - the more I look into H Samuel, the more mixed the reviews. I suspect it'll wind up on the "maybe" list. But I had not heard of Habasta - it looks great and just my kind of place. Thanks!

                1. re: ejcsanfran

                  At Habasta they speak good English!

                  1. re: ejcsanfran

                    I was also going to recommend Habasta, good food nice wine list and a nice small restaurant where a solo diner would not feel out of place.

                    Listed as a top 101 world restaurant in Newsweek

                2. For good/fun bar dining, I have to add Nanushka ( They have excellent Georgian food, and the later the night gets it definitely becomes much more lively. One of my favorite places to eat at the bar.

                  I'm going to personally disagree with bcc about Little Prague, (which is on the corner of Ben Yehuda and Beit Yosef), but down Beit Yosef there's a smaller bar near the Montifiore hotel that I really enjoy. Also in the Kerem Temani/Shuk Hacarmel area I really like They don't really have a bar, but the food is excellent and it's not a bad place to eat alone.

                  Another bar dining place that I enjoy is a Spanish place in the newly renovated train station in the Neve Tzedek area. There are two restaurants (one named Vicky, the other Christina), and one of the two has a nice bar to eat ate, tasty tapas type dishes.

                  Another excellent bar style area to eat is the flea market in Jaffa. There is a tiny street (the name of which I'm not going to be very helpful with.....) in the area that has a lot of new bar/restaurants. They're popular with locals as well as international/diplomats in the area. A really excellent mix. Hopefully your hotel can give you more specific information - but it really is a lot fun.

                  Also to add about the Minzar (Haminzar) - they don't always have English food menus, and some of their dishes are really hit and miss. The last time I was there the sausages and sardines were excellent but their octopus was dreadful.

                  All the best!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: cresyd

                    Hi cresyd,
                    Little Prague is actually on the corner of Allenby and Beit Yosef. It is not a gourmet restaurant, but honest in what it does, and fairly cheap. And it does have a bar. I myself prefer not to eat at bars, so I don't know much about them, but they do seem to offer advantages for single diners looking to engage with other people. And the Montefiore hotel is not on Beit Yosef. Did you mean the Galileo? And have you checked out Hanoi?

                    1. re: bcc

                      Lordy - thank you for the corrections. I used to live on Beit Yosef and was rushing through that post, clearly very sloppily with the streets.....maybe the bar I'm thinking of is called Montefiore but near the Galileo bar....

                      That being said, when I did live there I had a few bad experiences with Little Prague. But it was always my landmark of choice when telling cab drivers where to drop me off.

                      I live in Jerusalem now, so unfortunately I haven't gotten to Hanoi. Every time I try to get reservations there, I haven't been successful. I'm always hesitant about referring people to Thai House and restaurants such as that, cause I never know how much interest a statement like "this is the best Thai food in Israel" is going to have with travelers.

                    2. re: cresyd

                      Thanks, cresyd, this is super-helpful. This isn't the first time I've heard Nanushka recommended, so that'll definitely get added to the list. And Hamitbochon looks great.

                      1. re: ejcsanfran

                        Pay attention to bcc's comments about my mistakes in streets - fairly sad because I lived there for a summer, but I wrote that post at work and made some stupid mistakes.

                        I live in Jerusalem now, and unfortunately there just isn't Georgian food as good as Nanushka. It definitely gets very scene-y at night (I have a friend that works in the Polish Embassy and apparently among the Eastern European embassy set, it's very popular), but the food is truly excellent and they have nice wines.

                    3. I'm pretty blown away by all the great replies here. Thanks all. We're not traveling til January but I've got this tucked away.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: c oliver

                        In general the Middle East/Africa board can be a pretty place, so it's always fun to get the opportunity to talk about what's here.

                      2. I cannot think of a restaurant in Tel Aviv that will not be "appropriate" for solo dining. Also English will not be an issue, maybe only in more "simpler" places let's call, that we call in Israel "workers restaurants", actually those can be very interesting places to visit while in Tel Aviv and close especially to the Hatikva, Carmel markets, Jafa and south Tel Aviv etc. Don't excpect to find English menus there, but for sure there are always english speakers around to help.
                        Your list is a bit too "varied" to my liking :-) And there are too much places that i would not put in my list, and many others missing that i would have added for sure, Much better options in my opinion then Barbunya, Orna & Ella, Herbert Samuel, Cordelia/Noa and Kimel, but it depands a lot on your liking and preferences.
                        Catit closed and moved a couple of weeks ago to a much smaller and less interesting place next to her "casual" sister, the Mizlala. Fixed tasting menu is also a change, i can check pricing details, have not eaten there yet but we visit frequantly the Mizlala, very nice place in my opinion especialy good VFM for lunch and Meir Adoni the chef is quite a talented guy in the kitchen. I would think also to try Catit tasting at evening along with a lunch visit to Mizlala, cause this might be the best place for "special modern tasting menus" in Tel Aviv and Israel in general..
                        I will continue soon in another message :-)

                        28 Replies
                        1. re: oferl

                          Thanks for the info! I look forward to hearing more from you. :-)

                          To be clear, I'm not worried about the appropriateness of dining alone (I don't mind eating anywhere on my own!) - just that there are some places that are probably more fun for a solo diner than others. And I'd appreciate your suggestions.

                          1. re: ejcsanfran

                            Seeing that you are from SF, I feel a bit “uneasy” to tell you about Asian or “modern cuisine” places in TA, cause actually the comparison in most cases “will not hold water”, but this is what there is and with that we will work :-)
                            There are two “modern fusion lean to Asian” places that got the buzz this year and you may consider – Taizu by chef Ben Neria who was the actual operating chef in Herbert Samuel and Oasis by chef Rima. You can follow both places in facebook and “get the feel” for them, Taizu today is in my opinion a better place to visit then Herbert, but it is a bit more “designed” then Oasis, which I think you will feel more comfortable to visit, also the Rima and the staff in Oasis will give you a much warmer and personal feeling then you have in Taizu.. But Taizu menu is interesting too, somehow reviews on that place are either black or white, so I guess Rima is the way to go.
                            I would add to your list a place called “Kitchen Market”, located at the second floor of the small farmers market in the Tel Aviv Port area, very close to the location of Mol Yam and some other places. Good contemporary cooking there, “fresh market cooking” and blah blah as the saying goes today “-) There is a very nice ice cream just behind the market building towards the deck called Vanilia, several outlets in Tel Aviv..
                            Another nice place “in that spirit” opened in last year or two is Café 48
                            Solid cooking, chef have many influences including American cooking, a bit of asian, south Africa, Italian.. Mixed in quite a good way.. It is located exactly opposite to the Mizlala and if you pass at evening with no reservation, maybe you can check at both for place. I’m not sure food is “breathtaking” at least for the couple of tries we had there, but many people like it, popular spot lately.
                            Raphael ? It is a place that probably you should visit, nice to seat there of course (although for sea view better to pick Manta Ray). I would go there for their excellent weekend deal if it is relevant also for solo diner, must book much in advance. Otherwise for evening, I don’t think it is great VFM and also you might feel bit uneasy sitting alone, but not sure. If you want evening there, they have a great separate bar area with some sitting, it is called the Hamara and actually I like it much more the seating inside the restaurant, great smaller plates of the best dishes Rapheal has to offer and quite decent prices, pay attention that smoking is allowed there, I always think it was decided for the needs of chef Cohen which I saw many times smoke on the bar there :-
                            )I preffer a place called Messa over Rapheal, “fancy” but very easy to solo dine there, they have a very long marble counter/table that is perfect for there. Also a very interesting built place, a lot of marble but not a place that has code dress (like actually every restaurant in Israel. Try to visit at Lunch, I dine there many times solo at that time, and lunch menu is fantastic even in comparison to one-two Michelin stars in the world.. Interesting cuisine with many options that has a nice hint of local Marrocan/African area cooking, look for their specials and desserts there also great but too pricy to my liking. Pay attention that evening you may feel a bit uneasy for solo as in all places vs the lunch time, but still not “really uneasy”, and mainly the menu gets expensive significantly vs the lunch visit.
                            Two new places seem very nice and make good buzz lately, one is Pastel by French chef Tibo
                            And amother one in the “pictorial” area of Rotshield street number 96 called hotel rotshield

                            “Simpler Asian” – I like Bait Thailandi a lot, “Thai House”, which is very very close to the main beach area and it is a really decent thai place no matter where it was located in the world, in my opinion at least.
                            Don’t miss their beef soup item number 75, nice whole fish thai style, very good curry dishes and firsts, tom yam..
                            Not far from there there is a new dim sum place called Furama, very very simple and casual, pretty cheap and ran by a family with roots in Shanghai. Please don’t excpect Yank Sing or Hong Kong Lounge level and variety :-) But it is a very nice moderately priced option in the area.
                            A wave of viet/thai/we are asian but don’t know what is our identity opened in last year, Hanoi might be the best and hardest to reserve of all.
                            There are some decent sushi places but nothing to even tickle the high level places in US at least by special origins of seafood but food and preparation in general is very nice – I like “Ze Sushi”, Unami and Moon is also ok.
                            Tapao is pretty nice for tapas style, fun bar counter seating, also very popular place.
                            Gdera 26 btw is good option for the Carmel market area..
                            For great beer selection and pretty good “greasier” food there is Porter and Sons, located on same street of Unami, Messa, tapao..
                            There is a really great cocktails bar near the main beach, the guys there are top notch.
                            If you happean to be in Rabin square and Iben Gavirol area, Braseri is there and is quite good place, too popular, opened 24X7. Good bistro style fare, breakfasts and bakery etc.. They have a place called Delicattesen and a more upscale place called hotel Montifiore, very nice food there and good bar seating if I remember correctly. In the same Rabin square area 2 very good “street food” places, one is called Eatliz with especially good Donnar kabab and the other is the Vitrina, good burger and in house made sausages.

                            Will be glad to try and help if you have more questions :-)

                            1. re: ejcsanfran

                              Hi ejcsanfran,

                              oferl made a lot of good suggestions, but there are some places on his list that I, personally, would not recommend. One place he mentions, Oasis, I haven't been to yet, but am hoping to get in this year. If you get there first, please report.
                              I don't know Kitchen Market, but it's in the Port Area. I don't like the Port Area, too touristy. I don't much like Ghirardelli Square, either.
                              Raphael is expensive, stuffy, and the one time I was there, I didn't especially like the food. It's located in the Dan Hotel, which says a lot.
                              Nor did I like the food at Porter and Sons.
                              Brasserie seems to be a knock-off of Manhattan's Balthazar. It is open 24/7, but if you go at a normal eating time, you'll need a reservation, or you'll have to stand and wait. The main problem is, I don't think the food is very good.
                              Hotel Montefiore is--to my mind--to be avoided. The noise level is quite high, and the food we had there was terrible. I had a hamburger, one of their specialties, and it was disgusting. All the meat was fused together and rubbery.

                              Two more places that are quite noisy, but with good food are Shila and Toto. The food at Toto is exquisite, but the noise--for me--is unbearable.

                              You may find the Israel edition of Time Out interesting:

                              1. re: bcc

                                Hi bcc and ejc, my list for sure is more of a review "for checkup" of varied dining options, then a real big "with all the heart" as we say in hebrew recommendation to visit each place in this list. I'm not the biggest fan of tel-aviv dining scene anyway, but trying to give here some idea for a pool of options that must be checked before decided.
                                Out of all this list and because "eating at home" became the main agenda for us, actually from this list we are frequent visitors only at Ze Sushi, thai house, lunch at Messa and Mizlala and Hanoi an evening here and there, that's it for Tel Aviv more or less, probably i should have mentioned that but message was too long anyway.. Personally i wouldn't recommend btw Toto, especially for Solo, and Shila also is not "my cup of tea" and very very crowded at evenings, altough it is a better option then Rapheal at evening.
                                I guess it all depends eventually what are ejc's prefferences, i tried to match a list that might "correspond" with his initial "common known a bit touristy places" list, for sure this is far from being a list of my local prefferences, that lean today towards much more casual eating outside, speciallity "ethnic" kitchens or things we don't prepare at home etc..
                                Btw another fancy place we sort of liked lately and might have some "special building extra flair" to it is Aria, i think dining there even at the first floor lounge area (assuming the food there has strong connection with resto upstairs), might be a nice option and relatively i would recommend this place much more then Rapheal for example... Pastel from my list have not been yet and should have mentioned that, but i think it is a place that my be interesting if "haute cuisine" in probably casual setting is an option, as i felt from the initial list of op.
                                And another option to ejc - if you are a seafood lover don't hesitate in my opinion to have lunch at Mol Yam on a weekday, even if you don't reserve a place and there is no code dress at all if you are afraid of fancy factor, actually resto is not to be considered fancy at all. Their lunch menu which give option to take oysters for first and interesting options for second (not even the half lobster in my opinion), is a very very good lunch dining option vs the relative price.
                                I think every one visiting Tel Aviv should do the port and even the farmers market on a very crowded Friday with the mixed crowd of tourists and locals buying stuff for the weekend. As probably every "opposite way" tourist should visit the VERY touristy area of the Ferry building "not exactly a market" place in SF.

                                1. re: oferl

                                  Hi oferl,
                                  So I take it you recommend Hanoi?

                                  1. re: bcc

                                    If someone looking for an interesting Asian option in Tel Aviv - for sure yes, along with the other names i mentioned. Have you visited there ?
                                    Actually to make my previous messages in the right proportions, i would preffer anytime an evening at Hanoi, thai house and Ze Sushi over Oasis, Taizu, Shila, Raphael etc., very personal thing this issue of restaurants :-)

                                    1. re: oferl

                                      It is of course a matter of preferences, but when I visit another country I want to eat the food of that region. I don't understand eating Italian or Asian food on a visit to Tel Aviv.

                                      1. re: FoodDee

                                        Agreed. That the difference between living somewhere and visiting. A few years ago we did spend over three months in Rio and then I really was ready to branch out. But not usually.

                                        1. re: FoodDee

                                          Of course anyone wants to eat authentic Israeli cuisine might also think twice about shellfish.

                                          1. re: almond tree

                                            My experience with shellfish in Israel has been fairly decent all things considered. Though given that the bulk of shellfish I eat all year is from restaurants in Israel - I may just have developed a lower quality threshold.

                                            1. re: almond tree

                                              You haven't eaten at Uri Buri in Akko or HaBasta in TA, then. I don't eat crab, but the rest of the family does, and they thought the crab at Uri Buri was awesome. Any time the fish is impeccably fresh and the chef is competent, the dish will be good. Israeli chefs are doing their own thing with shellfish, too, and that makes it authentically Israeli.

                                              1. re: rockycat

                                                The best calamari I've ever eaten was in Israel.

                                                1. re: rockycat

                                                  My point was not to comment on the quality of shellfish in Israel, but to address those who want to eat only the cuisine of this region. Eating shellfish, just like eating Thai or Italian style cooking, is not part of the traditional Israeli diet.
                                                  Personally I think that part of the travel experience is to see what and where the locals are eating, not to stick to a notion of regional cuisine only.
                                                  That being said, I admit I did have a smoked meat sandwich when I was in Montreal this summer :).

                                                  1. re: almond tree

                                                    I would argue against that. Amongst kosher Israel - that's true. But among not kosher Israel shellfish is a very common part of the diet.

                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                      I think I'm not making myself clear but I'll try one more time. I'm not commenting on the quality or lack thereof of Israeli shellfish, or anyone's kashrut practices.
                                                      What I *am* saying is that it is a relative newcomer to the Israeli diet, and thus no more "authentic" than Israeli versions of Thai or Italian cuisine.
                                                      On a side note, this thread somehow inspired me to figure out how many meals I have eaten in Israel. It comes out to more than 20,000. Staggering thought.
                                                      I've never eaten Israeli crab, though I have eaten in the company of Israeli crabs, sitting in the water of Nachal Prat. This dining experience is highly recommended.

                                                      1. re: almond tree

                                                        I disagree with your points because shrimp in particular have been parts of the coastal diet in this region for a while. Particularly among non-Jewish communities. Perhaps the widespread nature of the shellfish is newer in Israel, but it's far more local than Thai.

                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          For some reason, and i guess marine biological experts can help much more on claryfing, fresh shrimp pretty rare and very expensive here. But agreed it is available sometimes but very hard to think about it in terms of "coastal diet", i would have wished :-) And very accurate that for sure the kosher issue makes a difference regarding souces to find, but for sure it will not be the main point why local shellfish is so rare in Israel.
                                                          Fish of course a different story, along with quite a developed industry of "cultured pool grown fish" (and btw in cages grown also at sea), otherwise shellfish market appearences sourced along this specific coastal strip - almost non existent compared to what imported frozen in blocks mainly from Vietnam/Thailand/Canada and new zealand for the mussels etc, and again, unfourtanatly :-(

                                                        2. re: almond tree

                                                          I've eaten with "Israeli crabs" at just about every falafel and sabich stand I've ever been to in Israeli. :-)

                                                          1. re: almond tree

                                                            Uri Buri's famous crab dish is the local blue crab meat in cream and seaweed sauce, excellent preparation, altough too creamy to my liking, but don't excpect blue crab here to be a revelation or something really special, altough when "in season" and darn cheap, it is great base for stock but a real big pain as usual to pull out decent quantity of meat..
                                                            And also agree with not to measure a place either authentic or not by the country it is situated at. For eg the thai place, Thai House on Bugrasov street, Israeli owner met his Thai wife while visiting Thailand, got married and opened the place with a complete Thai crew that came to Israel to help at the beginning wife at the kitchen. Very "Thai" place and i think it would have been a hit in many cities around the world and in Thailand itself, altough prices for sure should have been "a bit" different :-)
                                                            Same goes for an amazignly good Italian joint i love at a different part of Israel, owners is a couple that lived many years in Italy and do marvels in the Pizza and Pasta section.
                                                            So i like a lot those places with roots and "real spirit and connection" to motherland of the relevant kitchen, even if located in a small little pretty crazy country in the middle east :-)

                                                        3. re: almond tree

                                                          I suppose when I refer to food of the region I think Middle Eastern in general which would include shellfish. If you are looking for Jewish Israeli food only that changes things.

                                                          1. re: FoodDee

                                                            Muslims also traditionally shun shellfish.

                                                            1. re: almond tree

                                                              From what I can find doing a little research, Shia Muslims can only eat shrimp, but Sunnis can eat any shellfish. My comments about foods of the region were more about eating Middle Eastern food in general when in Israel rather than Italian or Chinese not about whether specific classes of food met dietary restrictions.

                                                              1. re: FoodDee

                                                                As I said before, I was making a point about what foods were authentic to the cuisine of the region. Period.

                                                      2. re: almond tree

                                                        No need to do connection of shellfish recommendation and the authentic Israeli cuisine category, which actually if there is something like that, it's roots are quite from "poorness" let's call it, and we have to thank each and every morning the arab cuisine for making some identity of "israeli cuisine" at least as it is captured in the world "-)
                                                        Mol Yam is an excellent lunch choice, i think that offering 6 good quality fresh oysters with excellent quality langoustines at 170 sheqels is a great deal anywhere, altough for sure there might be some cheaper options here and there in the world..
                                                        Excellent quality of imported fresh seafood from several places in the world, that is not something you find every day. Just to pay attention that evening is a much much more expensive expirience.

                                                        1. re: oferl

                                                          I was also trying to figure out what authentic Israeli cuisine is. I got as far as matzo, maror and roast lamb :)

                                                      3. re: FoodDee

                                                        So Tel Aviv is for sure not the address for that :-) One of the lousiest cities in Israel to have "regional fare", actually the only place that worth visiting in my opinion, and i should have mentioned earlier, is Haj Kahil in Jaffa, the restaurant of course, not their smaller place. I'm originally from the north of Israel and still eat a lot in that area, and comparing to other places around there, Haj Kahil is also not something too "shiny" in the field of Arab regional food.
                                                        The list of op had nothing to do with the issue of regional food, not even in a hint, so what i recommended are good places to dine at Tel Aviv, don't excpect to have a "great regional foodie trip" when you visit this city.
                                                        Interesting kitchens to try in Tel Aviv and Israel/middle east in general is a totally different ballpark, and altough few of the restaurant we mentioned may pass into such a list, i would have made a totally different list if this is a criteria, even for Tel Aviv, as i mentioned, i don't eat at most places in those list and making a truly interesting list of "uninformal" restaurants and food expiriences will bring a 98% different list that will btw require much more effort in locating places "out of the beaten path" and for sure much less touristic areas.

                                                      4. re: oferl

                                                        I tried to have lunch once at Hanoi. It didn't come to much, since they are only open in the evenings. When you mention your preferences, I understand what you mean. At home I practically never go to restaurants. But when I am in Tel Aviv, I eat out every night. So I guess we'll try for Hanoi again.

                                                        1. re: bcc

                                                          Hanoi became the hardest option to reserve in Tal Aviv, a bit surprising i have to say and maybe reflects the type of "healtier lighter" cuisine which is of course very very popular for a long time, but it is a good place anyway.
                                                          Use their facebook page and communicate with them there, each day you will see hebrew messages for last minute reserve quastions and of course reservations in advance.