Tourist tip #355 / Vegan restaurants take over Tel Aviv
It began with Buddha Burgers and now dozens of restaurants offer animal-free fare.
The vegan lifestyle is all the rage in Tel Aviv. The city has quite a few strictly vegan restaurants and a large number of places that feature vegan entrees to their menus.
The most popular foods in Israel, falafel and hummus, are vegan to begin with, so adherents looking for healthy food can eat just about anywhere. In addition, customers can always ask their waiters about vegan items on the menu. We recommend visiting the Facebook page of Vegan Friendly, a grassroots organization that gives its seal to restaurants all over the country.
The newest vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv is Zakaim, which is located where the well-known lesbian bar, Minerva, used to be until it closed last year. The metamorphosis is rather remarkable: the large, dim and smoky space where hundreds of women once drank and socialized to the beat of electronic music is now a well-lit, colorful and lively restaurant with vintage furnishings and the aroma of fresh vegetables cooking. Among its signature dishes, sure to intrigue even the most devoted carnivore, Zakaim offers zucchini freekeh, a dish inspired by Iran — green wheat served next to a casserole of zucchini with walnuts and dates, cooked onion and tomato, tahini and spicy dressing (NIS 64). Another item is the Jerusalem-style mango salad with lots of greens, pomegranate seeds, Persian garlic, chili and French fries made from Jerusalem artichoke (NIS 47). The dishes are prepared in the open kitchen when they are ordered, so they arrive at the table the moment they are ready, not necessarily in the order that they were requested. Most of them are made with hot pepper, too, but customers can ask for the non-spicy version.
The lovely outside has a second-hand store, in keeping with Zakaim’s theme of recycling and protecting the environment. It’s at 98 Allenby Street, 20 Simtat Beit Hasho’eva, and open Monday through Saturday from noon to midnight.
The pioneer of Tel Aviv’s vegan restaurants is Buddha Burgers, which has grown recently into a chain with branches all over the country. The main branch — at 21 Yehuda Halevi Street in Tel Aviv — is where Arie Raveh, the founder, works; he was born in Austria and moved to Israel 16 years ago.
Buddha Burgers offers a large variety of vegan entrees, including pizza made from sprouted spelt dough (NIS 32), the Buddha Burger made from sprouted lentils (NIS 26) and eggplant lasagna (NIS 39). We recommend going there on a Friday, when the restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet with a variety of salads, pastas, sandwiches, pastries, main entrees and desserts. Opening hours: Sunday through Thursday 11 A.M. to midnight; Fridays 11 A.M. to 5 P.M., and Saturdays 7 P.M. to midnight.
Other excellent restaurants in Tel Aviv that offer tasty vegan entrees include The Vegetarian Shawarma (81 King George Street); Bookworm (7 Mazeh Street); Orna and Ella (33 Sheinkin Street); Thai House (8 Bograshov Street); the Cafe Greg and Espresso Bar chains; The Streets (70 King George Street) and Mezze (51 Ahad Ha’am Street).