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.
It was amazing. We sampled everything from the Classic Eggs Benedict, to omelets with veggies and bacon, to bunless brunch burgers, to shakshuka, to bacon-wrapped fruit drizzled in hollandaise. The first couple times we went (pre-8AM), we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was only on the last visit (at the far-more palatable hour of 11AM) that there was a few minutes’ wait for a table.
Benedict seems to be somewhat of an Israeli institution, as there are locations all over the country. Highly recommended by us!
The Landwer Cafe
Speaking of brunch, the Landwer Cafe – also on Rothschild Blvd, just a block or two up from Benedict – comes a close second as our favourite brunch spot in Tel Aviv. We stumbled there on Day 1, “fresh” off the plane (read: jet-lagged as all hell) as we waited for our hotel room to become available.
The biggest draws, at the time, were a menu in English, gluten-free options clearly labelled, and the option to have a tipple with breakfast. It ticked all of the boxes! My ever-adventurous husband had a sandwich, and I had a shakshuka, which came with one of the most delicious gluten-free rolls I have ever tasted. (It came cooked inside a seal, no less, so no risk of cross-contamination!)
Looking at their website now, it would appear that they too are a chain, with dozens of outlets around Israel. We didn’t see any of the others, but if they’re as good as the one on Rothschild, they’re worth checking out.
“Falafel Without Gluten”
I have a confession to make: I have no idea what this place was called! Rowan and I walked out the “other” end of Shuk Ha’Carmel (opposite to Allenby Street), and there it was. A tiny hole in the wall, proudly advertising “falafel without gluten” with a sticker on their mirrored wall. Traditional falafel was very high on my to-do list for Israel. Real falafel should always be made without any gluteny ingredients; unfortunately most Westernised versions either stretch out the dough with wheat flour, or fry the balls in cross-contaminated oil.
Our lack of Hebrew almost stumped us in communicating that we wanted the falafel without pita bread, but thanks to a helpful passer-by we were able to get the message across. It was cooked right in front of our very eyes, and presented to us steaming hot.
So, if you find yourself in search of a gluten-free snack in that area, please note down the name of the vendor and send it through to me! It was fantastic!
I’ve got more advice on eating with dietary requirements in Israel here.
The Joint That Ripped Us Off In Jerusalem
I didn’t note down the name of this place at the time either, and even if I had I wouldn’t share it (unless in the form of a cautionary tale). The story of The Great Jerusalem Tour Lunch Rip-Off of 2017 has now passed into legend. Foolish tourists that we are, we didn’t demand prices or attempt to negotiate a reasonable exchange prior to being served two takeaway containers. We received two portions of kebab meat, with slightly-wilted salad and some chips, for the same price we’d pay for a week of groceries back home. My new husband was ropeable in the extreme!
To add insult to injury, we didn’t receive any cutlery for our thirty pieces of silver. We ate our hideously expensive fare with our hands, sitting on a stoop in the blazing sun, while the rest of the tour ate from a very reasonably priced buffet in an air-conditioned restaurant.
Important lesson: always check with your tour guide whether a stop for lunch is part of the tour, and ask for prices up front!
This is something you might not expect from Tel Aviv: they do a lot of really good Mexican food! And it’s not just us that say so.
As determined as we were to find a traditional Israeli meal on our last evening, it was not to be. We were almost forced into an all-vegan pizza and pasta joint out of sheer desperation… until the waitress took pity on us and suggested that gluten-free meat-eaters could find a Mexican wonderland just up the road. She was absolutely spot on: the best Mexican food in Tel Aviv!
(The generous margaritas didn’t hurt, either…)
And, finally, we have a soft spot in our hearts for Agadir Burger. Who could resist the humility of a neon sign that proudly declares “One of the ten best burgers in the world”?
We’d had a shit of a day, finding ourselves coathangered en route to Jerusalem by an unexpected religious holiday. As it turns out, the best cure for such circumstances is a huge, delicious, greasy, non-kosher burger (with a gluten-free bun option, no less!). We devoured our meal, and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel. The staff were lovely and accommodating. It was a very casual place, and clearly a favourite of migrants in the neighbourhood. So, if you find yourself stranded and everything is closed, now you know where to go!
There you have it: the highlights reel of where we ate in Israel! Next up in my Ultimate Guide to Eating in Israel: what to eat once you’re there!