For those of you lucky enough to have no dietary restrictions, the ability of a country to cater to your needs (literally!) is not a high-priority criterion when deciding on a honeymoon destination. Unfortunately, I can’t count myself among you. I am (sigh) the gluten-free girl. That means wherever I travel, I need to spend a bit of time researching which local cuisine options won’t kill me, and how to ask about them in the native tongue. You might be surprised to learn that Israel is excellent at accommodating the needs of travellers in this way. That’s why this edition of the Ultimate Guide to Eating in Israel will highlight what’s available for the intolerant and observant among us. There are restaurant listings available everywhere (Best vegetarian restaurants in Tel Aviv! Best kosher meals in Jerusalem! etc.), so this guide will focus on more general information about what’s available, wherever you go.
You can’t swing a cat in Tel Aviv without hitting a vegetarian/vegan menu. Veggie options are available everywhere – moreso than kosher, even (see below). This is partially because a lot of traditional Israeli foods fall into this category without modification (e.g., hummus, falafel), but also because Tel Aviv prides itself on being a cosmopolitan hub of progressives and bohemians and those communities more inclined to chose a plant-based life.
For us gentiles, flicking through a beginner’s guide to kosher is probably a good idea before heading to Israel. We didn’t (of course) but we picked it up fairly quickly as we went along. Most of the kosher guides online are aimed at people who were raised in the Jewish faith, who already keep kosher, or who plan to convert. In the interest of catering to people more like us – curious tourists, eager to respect local traditions – I figured a beginner’s guide to kosher our way would be a good addition to this Ultimate Guide to Eating in Israel series.
Kosher is a Hebrew word that translates roughly to “prepared” – foods permitted and prepared according to the Torah (the basis of all Jewish law). Anything not-kosher is called “treif”. I’m certainly not a position to give a religious education here, but this guide should cover off everything you need to know ordering food in Israel as a curious/respectful tourist.
Here we are, with Part Two of my Ultimate Guide to Eating in Israel (if you missed Part One, you can check out my thoughts on all the places we ate here). This time around, I’m focusing on what we ate while we were there. Consider this the “best of” two gentiles ordering from menus that were often mostly Hebrew, or only approximate translations thereof.
All the Trief Goodies That the Gentile Heart Desires
What the heck am I talking about? Well, “trief” roughly translates to “not kosher”. And I’ll start out with the caveat that this applies almost exclusively to the cosmopolitan hub that is Tel Aviv. You can read my complete beginner’s guide to kosher here, but I wanted to reassure you up front that honeymooning in Israel doesn’t necessarily mean foregoing bacon with your late breakfast!
One of the best parts of travelling – no question – is the chance to sample local food. To do this experience justice, I’m going to publish a series of posts (my Ultimate Guide to Eating in Israel) to cover all facets of our culinary exploration. This is Part I: where we ate in Israel, a highlights reel.
Ah, Benedict. While it’s perhaps not the rustic local street-vendor fare you’d expect from adventurous travellers, we loved Benedict so much that we ate there no fewer than three times during our stay (read about them here, here, and here).
We discovered Benedict when we awoke, jet-lagged, at 4AM on the morning of Day 2. We flipped through the Time Out Israel magazine, helpfully supplied by the hotel. The article that proved to be our holy book – 33 More Things That Will Definitely Happen When You Move To Israel – referenced a “drunk early bird special at Benedict”. We weren’t drunk (yet), but we were certainly starving early birds. Flipping through the magazine and a quick review on Google Maps led us to the nearest location: Rothschild Blvd 29, Tel Aviv – just up the road from our accommodation.
We brought you the Ultimate Guide to Eating in Israel, but let’s get real. As a couple, we comprise a bartender and a freelance writer – so we’re quite partial to a decent tipple. One of our favourite things to do in new cities is seek out fun bars and new concoctions to try. Thankfully, Israel did not disappoint! So, we would be remiss if we did not also bring you this: the Ultimate Guide to Drinking in Israel.
What To Drink in Israel
No one really knows what’s in it, so you know it must be good. Tubi is a citrus-based spirit, apparently, but it tastes like a mixture of lemon pips and metallic earth, watered down with methylated spirits. We sampled it in Tiberias on our Day 7 road trip. We couldn’t decide whether we liked it or not, but we suspected that if we had more than one we’d end up really liking it, and we’d never make it back to Tel Aviv. Proceed with caution.
This stuff will blow your socks off!
The most important thing we found when honeymooning in Israel was always have a back-up plan! Whether we were caught out by religious holidays or tired of walking in the desert heat, we always set about finding somewhere to eat and drink. You can find our ultimate guide to eating in Israel here, and our ultimate guide to drinking in Israel here, but if you’re after fast answers this is the place to find them: where to eat and drink in Israel, the shortlist!
How many condiments can you count? Standard meal for two in Tel Aviv!