Tel Aviv may have been built in the early 1900s, but the adjacent Jaffa Port dates back to long before the trendy White City next door came into existence (it’s even mentioned in the Bible!). Today it’s one of the few places in Israel where Jews and Arabs live, work, and play side by side.
As you can imagine, this waterfront Mediterranean enclave, with its famous flea market, stone-lined walkways and artist galleries, is a hub of culture and great food. Some restaurants span back generations, while others are a newly established extension of hipster Tel Aviv culture.
Follow the food path we’ve laid out here and you’ll get to enjoy a little bit of everything that Jaffa has to offer in one casual afternoon and evening filled with street food and fun finds.
- Starting point: The famous Jaffa Clock Tower & Dr. Shakshuka (kosher), 3 Beit Eshel Street
Start your Jaffa food journey at this unmistakable landmark, and you’ll find yourself just across the street from another Jaffa legend: Dr. Shakshuka. Here, Binyamin “Bino” Gabso carries on his family’s Libyan food culture through the ever-popular dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.
It was Gabso’s father who gave him the idea to serve his customers shakshuka straight out of the steaming hot cast-iron pan in which it is cooked.
Sit here, under the copper pots and pans that hang from the ceiling, among the famous Israeli chefs and families that make up the regular crowd, and feel at home as you share a portion with a few friends. Sop up your shakshuka with a simple loaf of rustic white bread, and wash it down with cold mint lemonade (limonana).
- Mitz (Juice) Bazaar, 3 Oleh Tzion Street
The hot Jaffa weather and the many seasonal fruits available here year round beg the question: Want to get some fresh juice? At Mitz Bazaar on Oleh Tzion street, your wish will be granted in the form of seasonal fruit shakes (Israeli-speak for smoothies), fresh-pressed juices, and Mexican-style Paletas — natural popsicles in imaginative flavors like malabi pudding with pistachio, and mango lassi.
Most everything here is healthy, including power shakes made with a bucket-load of greens, fresh carrot juice, turmeric shots, and date-banana shakes. Heading into the fall holiday season, try fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, which is said to have as many antioxidants cup for cup as red wine, or straight-up refreshing cold-pressed watermelon-mint juice.
- HaMalabiya, 11 Amiad Street, Jaffa flea market
Friendly little food stand by day, hotspot by night, HaMalabiya is a fairly new fixture in the heart of the Jaffa flea market, but is nonetheless a favorite stop. Elevating malabi — a Middle Eastern cornstarch pudding — to more than just a dessert, this spot attracts people young and old with personal touches such as homemade rosewater, a staple flavor in the pudding.
There are non-traditional house-made syrups based on the typical raspberry-rose flavoring, amplified with additions such as popcorn, watermelon, and lemon and cardamom. Diners can choose toppings like candied peanuts, desiccated coconut and cookie crumbs; vegans and gluten-free diners can find plenty of options.
To get the full experience, grab a Varda –– the rosewater-infused beer dreamed up by the owners of the shop and professionally produced by a nearby brewery – or enjoy a laughably cheap cocktail such as “sangria” with apple cider and triple sec, or “whisky ice.”
- Abulafia Bakery, 7 Yefet Street
A classic Jaffa bakery so famous it practically needs no introduction, Abulafia has been owned by the family of the same name since 1879.
As famous for their brightly colored staff uniform shirts that read “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” as they are for the soft bready and savory triangular sambusak pockets baked in a large stone pizza oven, Abulafia is the place to try treats from sesame bread to Turkish-style pomegranate and pistachio Turkish delight (rokat loqum) to chebakia (fried syrup-drenched rose-shaped Middle Eastern cookies).
- Hummus Dani-Ful (kosher), 8 Olei Tzion Street
In case you’ve recovered from your food coma and are up for tasting another hearty and quintessentially Israeli treat, head down the street and around the corner to Hummus Dani Ful.
This little-known spot, favored by locals since the 1960s, makes one of the best masabchas in Israel, a rustic hummus dish made from roughly mashed chickpeas folded into a rich tahini sauce and topped with dark green olive oil, fresh-chopped parsley, paprika and a slow cooked hard-boiled egg. Of course, it’s served alongside a plate of fresh onion sections, pickles and a mildly hot green pepper for flavor and crunch.
Herbed green falafel and fluffy pitas are other musts here as well, to help you scoop up this favorite Israeli dip, as well as classic fresh hummus.
- Haj Kahil Express, 18 Raziel Street
Called a “culinary Eden” by the New York Times’ David Lebovitz, Haj Kahil — facing the clock tower where your Jaffa foodie journey started — is considered one of the best Arabic food restaurants in Tel Aviv.
The restaurant is known for its grilled skewered meats, but offers up much more, from well-composed salads, whole leg of lamb and whole roasted fish presented on giant platters, to buttery sweet knafeh- a regional dessert of kadaif pastry noodles, melted sheep’s cheese and sugar syrup.
Luckily for the wary traveler who just wants to grab a bite on the go, Haj Kahil Express lies in wait just across the traffic circle. There you’ll find a pared-down but satisfying version of the restaurant’s fare.
Here, slow-roasted meats dressed up on a platter become lamb and spring chicken shawarma slow-roasting around traditional rotating cones, ready to be shaved into a pita, laffa or baguette bread alongside fries and an assortment of fresh salads. This is as good a place as any to end your daytime food journey.
- Main Bazar (7 Olei Tzion Street), Onza (3 Rabbi Hannina Street), and Faruk BaShuk (6 Rabbi Nachman Street)
As night falls on Jaffa, and you’ve worked off your afternoon noshes with a stroll down the coastal boardwalk, stick around to experience the Jaffa nightlife.
Main Bazar is just one place in the area where you can get a great cocktail or Israeli brew, and a bite of updated Middle Eastern tapas such as purple tahini with beetroot, walnuts and parsley or Jaffa-style plated eggplant burekas with tomato salsa and pickled cucumbers.
Other options for a taste of the nightlife include a unique upscale yet laid-back food experience at Onza. Specializing in Turkish cuisine, this popular spot is run by talented Tel Aviv chefs Arik Darhani and Muli Magriso, who give new Ottoman cuisine an Israeli twist, utilizing the fish of the nearby sea and local meats in their beautifully plated modern dishes.
For a more casual choice for a fabulously fresh meal in the Jaffa flea market area, you’ve got to visit Faruk BaShuk, which serves up market-fresh beautifully assembled salads, and dishes such as herbed sea bass tartar with pine nuts on a bed of labaneh, on traditional Armenian pottery plates. Taking full advantage of the illuminated string lights and street-art lined-walls of the Jaffa flea market, it is an especially nice spot to spend your evening.