The Best Israeli Street Food in Tel Aviv
Food in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is an expensive city. It ranks #14 according to the cost of living Index, in the same ballpark as San Francisco and Tokyo. The situation is slightly better on the restaurants' cost index at #17 but still quite expensive . The only USA city more costly than Tel Aviv in the restaurants' cost index is New York.
What comes to our rescue is the tasty Israeli street food that is loved by both locals and tourists. Street food in Tel Aviv is not only economical, it’s super-tasty and a fantastic way to get closer to the local culture.
Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city, and as such, you can easily find great variety and quality of any international street food you can think of (pizza, burger, hotdog, etc.). But if you are visiting Tel Aviv, I recommend you forget about those and focus on the local, traditional Israeli street food that is influenced by Middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.
Best Israeli Street Food in Tel Aviv
Hummus—Most Popular Israeli Street Food
Hummus is one of the most popular Middle Eastern dishes and Israeli street foods. It is served in restaurants in many countries bordering the Mediterranean, but also as street food stuffed inside Pita Bread. Hummus's main ingredient is chickpeas which are one of the earliest cultivated legumes and have been in use in the Middle East for thousands of years. They are soaked in water for several hours, boiled and cooked for about an hour, then mashed into a spread.
The mashed chickpeas are then mixed with tahini, lemon, and garlic to create the Hummus dish. Although easy to make, to prepare excellent Hummus in Israel is considered an "art", and many people cherish their secret recipe.
To test the country's best hummus, you may be tempted to travel to the old city of Jerusalem or old Akko, but in Tel Aviv, you can also find plenty of excellent hummus stalls. One of the best hummus in Tel Aviv is Abu Hasan, spotted easily by the long line of people waiting to get their portion.
Falafel—Famous Street Food in Tel Aviv
Falafel is a small fried ball prepared from ground chickpeas mixed with spices, flour, parsley, and coriander. It is much quicker to make than hummus since there is no need for soaking and boiling.
Like hummus, falafel is served inside pita bread, mixed with salads and pickles. It is common to add a bit of hummus in the pita bread with the falafel and spread tahini on top. The concept of most Falafel stalls is that the seller will ask you what to add to the falafel balls into your pita. Afterward, you are welcome to stay near the stand and add as many extras as you like as you eat your portion.
You will stumble upon this famous street food in Tel Aviv every few minutes in the city center. One famous "classic" falafel stall is Johnny's Falafel, or if you are looking for a modern and trendy alternative with an energetic vibe and loud music, check out Hakosem (The Magician).
Bourekas—Traditional Tel Aviv Food
Bourekas is a small pastry stuffed with a variety of fillings. The most traditional shape is a 2-3 inches size triangle, but it comes in various shapes and sizes. The classic filling is feta cheese, but you will also find potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and more.
The origin of the Bourekas is from Sephardic Jews that lived under Ottoman rule in the 16-17th century. When they immigrated to the land of Israel in the early 20th century, they brought the Bourkes with them. Freshly baked Bourkes makes a delightful breakfast. Most bakeries that make bread will also sell Bourekas; however, it is better to opt for the specialty street food stalls that focus on them.
Sabich—Breakfast in Tel Aviv
Sabich is a traditional Iraqi Jewish dish. It was the typical breakfast dish for the Sabbath of Iraq's Jewish community that flourished from the 6th century BCE until the Iraqi authorities expelled them in the 1950s (about 120,000 people). Most of them immigrated to the newly born state of Israel and brought with them the Sabich.
The fist Sabich stall was opened in 1961 in Rmatt Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. It gradually gained notoriety and is nowadays a popular Israeli street food for breakfast in Tel Aviv or really for a meal anytime of day.
Sabich is a sandwich usually served in a laffa. The primary ingredients are fried eggplant and boiled hard egg. On top of that, many extras can be selected. The popular ones are Hummus, Tahini, fresh vegetables, amba, zhug, and pickles. Sabich Frishman is a popular chain of 6 Sabich spots in the greater Tel Aviv area.
We have focused so far on vegetarian Israeli street food, but there are also some great meat options:
Shawarma—Most Popular Meat-Based Street Food in Israel
Shawarma is a staple of Middle Eastern street food and can be found across the region.
In Israel and the Arab countries, it is called Shawarma, and in Turkey, Doner Kebab. It consists of meat cut into thin slices, stacked on a stick that roasts slowly in front of a fire.
Originally made of lamb, but today Shawarma can also be made from chicken, turkey, beef, or veal. Immigrants from the Middle East opened many shawarma stalls in Europe, and now it is one of the world's most famous street foods.
Shawarma is the most popular meat-based street food in Israel. So, you will find Shawarma street food stalls in Jerusalem, and plenty of them in Tel Aviv as well.
Arayes—New Tel Aviv Street Food
Arayes is simply ground meat, stuffed in pita bread (usually a quarter of a pita) and grilled together, resulting in a crispy bread filled with meat. It is originally a famous Lebanese and Syrian dish. It was almost not present in Israel until recent years. Only during the last decade, it began to spread as Israeli street food, especially in Tel Aviv. Check out Arayes Machne Yehuda to understand why it gained such popularity.
And now for Israeli Street Food Dessert…
Muhallebi: Israeli Dessert in Tel Aviv
The Israeli dessert, Muhallebi is known here for years, but only in recent years did it became a trendy street food dessert in Tel Aviv with dozens of stalls and even a chain with five shops called Hamalabiya.
Muhallebi, pronounced in Hebrew Malabi, is a milk-based pudding mixed with rice and flour, topped with ground pistachios, and rose water. Its ancient origins are from Persia; however, it blended gradually into the Turkish and Arab cuisine. In Jewish tradition, it is served in some communities to break the Yom Kippur fast and the holiday of Shavuot.
It's a very refreshing sweet street-food, fashionable to have on a hot summer day together with a glass of cold beer.
Israeli Street Food at Tel Aviv Food Markets
One of the best ways to enjoy traditional Israeli street-food in Tel Aviv is to combine it with a ramble in one of the city's authentic or modern food markets. Market is "Shuk" in Hebrew, and every notable town in Israel has its "Shuks".
Shuk ha Carmel—Largest Outdoor Food Market in Tel Aviv
Shuk ha Carmel is the largest outdoor food market in Tel Aviv, spanning along Ha Carmel street and smaller streets that cross it. The market was opened in 1920 by Jewish Russian immigrants that settled in the new town of Tel Aviv.
The Tel Aviv market is open on all weekdays, selling mostly fresh food products, but also flowers and basic household products. It is a great place to soak in the local atmosphere and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. While strolling around, you can also find many of the Israeli street foods mentioned above.
Shuk Hatikva—Known for Israeli Street Food
A bit smaller from the Carmel market, but more colorful and with generally lower prices, the Tikva market (established 1936) is a good alternative. On top of the regular variety of fresh food products, this Israeli market has many street food stalls and small basic restaurants.
Shuk Hanamal—At the old Tel Aviv Harbor
The Namal (Harbor) market is totally different from the others above. It is an indoor market, opened to the public since 2010, located at the old Tel Aviv harbor (not active for many years). It was inspired by the famous La Boqueria market in Barcelona, Spain.
The market is a trendy, modern place with higher prices compared to the older outdoor markets. Many stalls offer fresh products directly from farmers of the area that sell fresh fruits and vegetables just picked from their fields.
The Harbor area is a delight to ramble around, full with café's, restaurants, and other shops. Pick up some Halva (sesame-flavored candy) to nibble on while strolling around. It’s so good you’ll want to make Halva at home!
Your Thoughts on Tel Aviv Street Food
We’d love to hear if your planning to visit Tel Aviv! Which Israeli street foods are you looking forward to trying? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author
Erez Speiser, born in 1966 in Israel and lives in the Galilee region. By education, a mechanical engineer, working as a product manager in a multinational metal cutting tools company. However, Erez's big passion is nature and the outdoors. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking & surfing. Erez loves Israel and tries to promote hiking tourism in the country. He is the founder & manager of www.hike-israel.com