Carmel Market is great for finding exceptionally fresh seasonal fruits and veggies and shopping for specialty products. So it’s no surprise that the restaurants there are incredible.
Who can resist Tel Aviv’s colorful, vivacious marketplaces? The sights, smells and sounds can be intoxicating. For some, this is part of the reason they make the leap to move to the seaside city, known to locals as “The Bubble.”
Carmel Market is great for picking up exceptionally fresh seasonal fruits and veggies, shopping for specialty products, and grabbing a bite to eat with friends.
Innovative eateries in and around the market show off its treasures to the fullest. Here are 10 such restaurants, some casual stripped-down gourmet, some street food, and some good old home cooking made by daydreaming hipsters and savtas (grandmas).
54 Hashomer Street
A perfect microcosm of Tel Aviv restaurant culture, Habasta’s tapas plates break all the rules, serving forbidden fruit like crab and oysters alongside French classics like steak tartare, traditional Mediterranean dishes like fried barbunia fish, and Israeli favorites such as labane with pomegranate seeds and herbs — all at once on Old World china plates.
The word basta means “market stall,” so you can expect the food you’re served to have been picked up at the early-morning marketjust steps away. Sit in this mainly outdoor spot in the pedestrian walkway to feel the pulse of the city streets.
1 Hashomer Street
With an open feel and a view straight onto the market, Hashomer 1 is a great place to people-watch within earshot of all the action.
Chef Naor Cohen has an open kitchen where he transforms produce from the stands into masterpieces before your very eyes,
Dishes like tomato salad with Iraqi cheese, cauliflower falafel, and signature cocktails such as “Mediterranean Summer” –a very Tel Aviv mix of anise-flavored liquor, sun-sweetened Israeli red grapefruit and fresh mint — are enough to gain a full appreciation of the power of fresh, seasonal products.
Hamitbach Hakaful (The Double Kitchen)
2 Nachalat Binyamin Street
Serving both hummus that contends with the best of them and authentic Persian dishes (hence the name “The Double Kitchen”), Hamitbach Hakafullets you enjoy the best of Israel while also exploring the complex and underrated world of Jewish Iranian cuisine.
Their signature hummus with zaatar, lemon, garlic, olive oil and parsley is a must — but only if you also get the gondi (chicken and chickpea dumplings served in a golden chicken stock with potatoes), and the charcoal-grilled lamb kebabs.
Yom Tov Café
30 Yom Tov Street
A fitting name for this on-trend Yemenite Quarter café, Yom Tov (“good day”) Café is named after the street it resides on, but it may truly be the best place to start your day.
Breakfasts here are especially pampering with choices that honor all heritages. Keep it hipster with lox and avocado, go Yemenite with saluf flatbread and eggplant, or Russian with a smoked-fish plate that stars both pickled herring and ikra (salmon roe).
Or go for a mix of everything and have the brisket sandwich on North African frena bread, for example, but don’t forget that the goodie-packed salads and vegan options here are the real deal.
Both day and night menus stick with the local theme of fresh and healthful, while nighttime carries a separate vibe of casual gourmet to the background of live music.
Galbi-Hamakom Shel Anat (Also known as “Anat’s Kitchen”)
23 Simtat Hacarmel
An absolute legend in Kerem HaTeimanim (The Yemenite Quarter) –a historical neighborhood that surrounds the market — single mom Anat Shabi got her start making late-night snacks for hungry bar hoppers of the area in the 1990s.
Having since transitioned into homestyle Mizrahi lunch food, Galbi is where diners go when they’re feeling down and need some cheering up, motherly advice, and a hot meal.
Anat treats guests like family, and fills them up with large portions of North African and Iraqi as well as other Middle Eastern and Sephardic dishes like kubbe (semolina dumplings) in beet broth, stuffed vegetables of many kinds in tomato sauce, homey meatballs, Israeli salads, and more vegan options than you would expect. Because, Look at you, you’re so skinny! You don’t you eat enough!
Another grandmother with a small homestyle food operation is Julia Ozon of Julie Ochel (Julie Food). You can find her at 29 Yom Tov Street. Her Egyptian food warms the hearts of the lucky foodies who know enough to drop by for lunch regularly.
Shlomo and Doron Hummus
29 Yishkon Street
Pickled onions, a slow-cooked haminado egg, kalamata olives, and green tahini are a few of the creative toppings you can find decorating the top of a plate of hummus at Shlomo and Doron Hummusia.
Considered among the best in the country, this is the place to test the limits of hummus right along with the locals. Placed in an alleyway with ample outdoor seating, it’s casual as can be, and it’s packed for a reason — because it’s gooood.
Bicicletta bar and food
29 Nachalat Binyamin Street
Just behind the pedestrian street leading to Carmel Market lies an open courtyard decorated with rustic-chic string lights and large clay planters under the shade of an old tree.
This is where you will find locals and tourists mingling, chatting, drinking gourmet cocktails and even kicking back arak shots while they dine on beautiful meze dishes.
A Tel Aviv version of brunch, and mouthwatering mains like hanger steak in brandy sauce, and lachmajun( ground lamb flatbread) –Chef Avia Parnass dreams up these and the other weekly menu creations upon returning from the morning market.
30 Kapach Street
You may have heard of the incredible authentic Yemenite food waiting for you in Tel Aviv.
Lucky for you and your rumbling stomach, you can experience the best of it near Carmel Market. Anunassuming mom-and-pop shop with simple Old-World charm, Hachim Ozeri (The Ozeri Brothers) serves legendary Yemenite soups and other flavorful homestyle dishes that are slow-cooked and served on charming colorful ceramic tile tabletops.
Hamitbachon (The Kitchenette)
18 Rabbi Akiva Street
It’s quite a paradox that the modernization of Israeli food has led to a revival of dishes from our grandparents’ generation, but indeed it has. Old World flavors are now proudly displayed on restaurant menus curated by millennial chefs.
This, however, is no such restaurant. Cutting out the middleman between savta and plate, Hamitbachon serves dishes like handmade couscous and vegetable or meat stew, stuffed cabbage, and pashtida under the slogan: “It’s Grandma’s food, we just serve it.”
21 Hacarmel at corner of Rabbi Meir
This gem of a kebab shop is sandwiched between market stalls peddling colorful kosher gummy candies and cheap jewelry.
The grilled meat is presented in thoughtful pita or ciabatta sandwiches that highlight Middle Eastern flavors and Israeli classics. The eatery’s signature dish –Jerusalem’s famous “mixed grill” of spiced grilled chicken livers and hearts –is part ofa small menu of perfected dishes worth your trip.
Another buzzed-about meat place that you shouldn’t miss is M25, a nearby butcher shop/gourmet lunch spot where you can buy an aged steak and also sit down for a made-to-order chef’s dish of the same stock.
About the Author:
Jessica Halfin is an American immigrant who arrived in Israel in 2006. She is an Israeli-trained baker, gourmet cook, food and culture writer, and gives foodie tours to tourists in Haifa City.