Today is International Falafel Day. And for falafel lovers like me, Tel Aviv’s amazing street food scene is a great place to embark on giving it a try.
Often thought of as Israel’s national food, falafel actually originated in Egypt as a deep-fried fava bean dish.
Yemenite Jews replaced the ground fava beans with garbanzo beans (chickpeas), put it in pita bread, and brought this portable meal with them to Israel during the great migration in the 1950s. The mashed beans are mixed with minced herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander, parsley, garlic and cardamom, depending on the recipe.
Several freshly fried falafel balls are tucked inside the fluffy pita lined with hummus, topped with a generous dollop of tahini and accompanied by a choice of add-ins — typically, chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, pickled cabbage, fresh herbs, French fries, sweet-and-sour amba (mango) sauce and much more.
Yeah, it’s messy but incredibly delicious.
After tasting the authentic fried chickpea balls made by five different Tel Aviv falafel shops during the first week of my summer internship at ISRAEL21c, I’m ready to throw out the frozen supermarket falafel that I’m used to eating in my college dorm room in Texas.
Join me on my preliminary journey into Tel Aviv’s falafel heaven. Remember, these five are just a tiny sample of the chickpea scrumptiousness available in countless joints throughout the city and throughout Israel.
1 Shlomo HaMelekh Street
HaKosem, which translates to “The Magician” in Hebrew, is at the top of my list. This is the place Jerry Seinfeld stopped for a bite when he visited Israel in 2017.
The menu consists of everything from falafel to shawarma to sabich, all extremely fresh and delicious. The falafel balls include a secret combination of herbs and spices.
What sets HaKosem’s falafel apart is its impeccable texture – a crispy, golden brown exterior that gives way to a flavorful and moist center.
HaKosem has gained a reputation for serving some of the best falafel in the city and at any point in the day, there will be a line likely going all the way down the street. It’s worth the wait; this falafel is truly magical!
Falafel Gabay (@falafel.gabay)
25 Bograshov Street
Falafel Gabay’s slogan, “Much More Than Just Falafel,” is proven to be true the moment you step foot into the shop.
Falafel Gabay serves an exceptional falafel with the perfect blend of herbs and spices, as well as the most delicious hummus.
But the falafel becomes more than just a delicious dish here – it becomes a symbol of unity, history and diversity thanks to decor devoted to the story and cultural significance of falafel in Israel and the melting pot of customers from all walks of life.
126 Derech Menachem Begin
What makes Falafel Jina well worth visiting is its dedication to using the freshest high-quality ingredients coupled with the staff’s passion for their craft.
The owner told ISRAEL21c that a good falafel also depends on the proportions of the ingredients –a secret recipe that varies from place to place. At this shop, the falafel makers expertly blend in herbs, such as parsley and coriander, with 100 percent chickpeas – meaning no added breadcrumbs or flour.
Roni Meats, Carmel Market
When it comes to fully experiencing all that Tel Aviv has to offer, one can’t overlook Carmel Market.
Carmel Market is vibrant, loud and full of locals, visitors and vendors calling out and negotiating the best deals. The energy is contagious! Located in the heart of the city, the market offers some of the most iconic and delicious falafel stands in Tel Aviv.
Among the standouts is Roni’s, a grill place that makes mouthwatering traditional falafel balls with a crispy exterior and a soft and flavorful interior. But I’d recommend trying any of the stands. Delicious falafel coupled with the vibrant environment of Carmel Market creates a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.
La Mer (@lamertelaviv)
91 Retsif Herbert Samuel Street
La Mer’s prime location on Bograshov Beach offers a refreshing and scenic departure from traditional falafel establishments.
Instead of a busy street or crowded market, you will enjoy delicious food and be surrounded by the natural beauty of Tel Aviv while looking out onto the Mediterranean Sea.
However, it is not just the location that makes La Mer a must-try spot; it’s the falafel itself. The falafel balls are crispy, delicious and packed with a variety of flavors and textures. I highly recommend it.