Boutique Naknikia
The roastbeef sandwich at Boutique Naknikia. It didn't make the top five, but it's still delicious. Photo by Rotem Maimon
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It all started in the 18th century, when Lord John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, was gambling and suddenly began to feel his belly rumble. He ordered his servant to bring him to two pieces of bread, with a piece of meat between, so he could fill his stomach without getting his cards dirty by shoving greasy slabs into his mouth with his bare hands.

Since that fateful day, the sandwich – named in honor of the esteemed earl – has become one of the most popular and loved food items in the world, with endless varieties of bread, condiments, and fillings.

The sandwich has long been a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, though not necessarily by that name (here, the tradition is stuffed pocket bread wraps).

Tel Aviv, though undoubtedly a capital in the art of stuffed pita, boasts some fine sandwiches made according to the earl's orders, as well.

Haaretz and City Mouse Online set out to find which café, restaurant, boutique, bistro and lunch counter makes it best. While it was hard to narrow down the list, we managed to find our five favorite sandwiches in Tel Aviv - and they were all in the south of the city.

The mythological: Itzik and Rutie

Ask any Tel Avivian where to get the best sandwich in the city, and you'll most likely hear, "At Itzik and Rutie".

Toward evening, say around 5 P.M., you may have a hard time spotting this little store, but you won't be able to miss it from morning through well after lunch. The lines snake down the trendy street, with hungry patrons eager to get their hands on these sandwiches of legend. Itzik and Rutie, who opened then shop in 1956, are no longer around, but their son Dudi and his wife Shuli have kept up the sandwich tradition perfectly.

It's not just the spongy bread, or the aioli sauce. Here, time seems to have stopped – the combinations, the atmosphere, the price. Nostalgia? Legend? Maybe. Or maybe it's the array of authentic salads and spreads that turn the sandwich into more than just two pieces of bread with a filling.

Our choice: Try the shop's flagship sandwich: egg salad and mayonnaise, with fried onion and zucchini salad, in a soft long roll. If they have spicy carrot salad when you're there, throw that in as well. If you're not into egg salad, check out the sauerkraut sandwich (Wednesdays) or the cream cheese, garlic, onion and olive oil (Thursday). If you think of yourself as a real expert, don't miss out on the herring.

Price: NIS 12 for a small roll, NIS 18 for a large. Add NIS 5 and get an old-fashioned soda, too.

Where: Sheinkin 53, Tel Aviv

The surprising: Yahaloma

This little bistro, run by and named after former media woman Yahaloma Levy, has been open for barely two months and has already gathered a formidable tribe of admirers. Yahaloma (the shop) toes the fine line between neighborhood bistro and cafeteria (or even lunch counter.

You can open your day here by breakfasting on the best Egyptian fava beans in Tel Aviv, and then move on to the majadra or couscous for lunch – or you can try the surprisingly delicious sandwich created lovingly in Yahaloma's name.

Our choice: The Yahaloma sandwich. On a light and airy roll (a cross between Italian bread and long ciabetta), you'll find a spread of dijonnaise (a blend of Dijon mustard with mayonnaise), homemade roast beef, spicy pepper, tomato seeds, and pineapple. Yahaloma pops it into the toaster for just a few minutes, lending a warm and comforting crisp to the whole thing.

It may sounds strange, but the gastronomic circus begins the moment you sink your teeth in – it's sweet, it's spicy, it's tangy; it's warm, it's crispy, it's delicious. Be forewarned: you may have to order two.

Price: NIS 34

Where: Zevulun 5, Tel Aviv (in the Lewinsky Market)

The creative: Daibuchka

About two-and-a-half years ago, Tel Aviv chef Keren Adam (of the restaurant Joz V'Loz), was looking for a place in the Florentine neighborhood to eat a good and interesting sandwich alongside her coffee. When she couldn't find, she decided to open a place of her own.

Daibuchka, set in a tiny storefront on a residential street, is a bastion of sandwiches. Adam offers three protein options –meat, fish, and cheese – which she then artfully integrates with vegetables, spreads and pickles, to create the ultimate combinations. You can choose your own ingredients for her to assemble – but it's better just to look up and that menu board and let her make what she recommends.

Our choice: The Iraqi sandwich. Two slices of hearty whole grain bread (from the Lachmania bakery), filled with a colorful crescendo of flavors: sundried tomato paste, tahini, roasted bell peppers, perfectly married with Turkish feta cheese and a hardboiled egg, the whole thing topped with a gentle layer of onion, hyssop, basil and roquette leaves. A quick spin the toaster and voila: Warm, comforting, delicious, addicting. If that's not your thing, go for Adam's house specialty: mattias with sour cream, cilantro, basil and tomato. There's no way to lose at Daibuchka.

Price: NIS 19 for a half sandwich, NIS 30 for a whole.

Where: Hachalutsim 41, Tel Aviv (Florentine)

The party animal: Deli

When you're out for a night on the town, and belligerently searching for the perfect snack to soak up the alcohol and delight your palette, look just down the street on Allenby and you'll find it. Those who pass by the little diner may have no idea just how good the food is, or even that an entire pub and discotheque live behind. Stop in anyway, let yourself sink into a bar chair, and give your stomach a little treat.

Our choice: If you're going New-York-style, do it all the way. The Deli's New York sandwich is hedonism between two pieces of white brioche: a ridiculously thick pile of corned beef, brushed with a light layer of gouda, each slice of bread tickled with horseradish aioli, a little dijon, sauerkraut and onion. Pickles and coleslaw on the side.

Price: NIS 34

Where: Allenby 47, Tel Aviv

The chef's sandwich: Café 48

Don't be deceived by the name: Café 48 isn't a coffee shop, it's a chef's restaurant - albeit humble and modest. Chef Jonathan Borowitz serves only one sandwich there, but a sandwich at its simplest and best.

Our choice: The shpondra. In Hebrew, shpondra refers to short ribs, or a cut of flat beef with a layer of fat. In this case, the meat is slow-cooked for about five hours, basting in the juice of its own fat, until it turns into a confit. The meat is then tucked into a fresh little challah roll – baked to the perfect consistency to soak up all the flavors – and then dressed with homemade ketchup and slices of pickles.

Price: NIS 48

Where: Nachlat Binyamin 48, Tel Aviv