That's it, we're out of cash. Call it a crisis or a temporary slowdown, most of us have less money in our wallets, but still feel the need to indulge once in a while. Our challenge this week was to find restaurants offering worthwhile dishes that would also give us change from 50 shekels. The conditions: No deals, no fast food, no cafes, and no business meals - only fun places that don't cost an arm and a leg.
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Pork sandwich at the Mizlala (NIS 47)
Meir Adoni is usually associated with expensive restaurants, but in the Mizlala's menu we found an unexpected sandwich that sent us home pleased and planning to return for more. Taboon bread baked on location with pieces of roasted pork, smoked peppers, garlic and honey aïoli create a celebration of flavors.
Tip: at noon the sandwich is offered with smoked french fries and an entrée for NIS 57.
Mizlala, Nahalat Binyamin 57, Tel Aviv.
Steak burrito at Takriya (NIS 38)
Takriya is the best place to have fun and eat in a summer of recession. It's not only the addicting frozen margaritas, but also the menu itself - the most expensive dish costs NIS 38. From the nacho and cheese dishes to the fatty burrito, there's no chance you'll end up hungry. We chose the steak burrito, which is filled with steak strips cooked a la plancha, rice, and beans. There's also a meat-less version for vegetarians.
Tip: a huge frozen margarita costs only NIS 28, so for less than NIS 70 you leave the restaurant well fed as well as inebriated.
Takriya – Levontin 28, Tel Aviv.
The Malaysian dish at Giraffe (NIS 49)
Value for money is a substantial part of the Giraffe chain's DNA. Whether it is Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Letzion, Herzliya or Eilat, one can be sure that the dishes are always large and fairly priced. The hot Philippine dish, the chicken in lemon and the pad thai were all fair candidates, but we chose the Malaysian dish. For one thing, you simply cannot stuff anything more into your mouth after you finished. The dish can be altered for vegetarians and those who prefer not to mix milk and meat.
Tip: The dish costs NIS 10 less when ordered as take-away.
Hamburger and fries at Rothschild 12 (NIS 48)
Aching for the Brasserie or Coffee Bar's burger, but don't feel like spending? This is the right place for you. No business meal or deals, all day long, Rothschild 12 serves an excellent 160 gram American Hamburger (yes, we checked, its exactly the same recipe as the Brasserie). The secret ingredient? A small puddle of paprika aïoli in the bun. Add the fries, and that's a dish that won't leave you hungry.
Tip: between 12-19 the burger's price includes an entrée, bread and butter and even a drink.
Rothschild 12 – Rothschild 12, Tel Aviv
Double Focaccia Nutella dessert at De Pepe (NIS 29)
The truth is that De Pepe offers quite a few excellent pizzas for NIS 50 or less, but the dish that gets us to return again and again is on the desserts page of the menu. Imagine a huge pizza, but instead of tomato sauce, there is Nutella chocolate spread and sugar. The result is one of the simplest and tastiest deserts in town. The menu declares that it's meant for two, but we've seen people who succeeded in devouring the dish alone.
Tip: If you're in an adventurous mood, try the Anceloti, (NIS 29), the local version of jelly doughnuts, large dough strips, fried and baked with hot Nutella. Simply delightful.
De Pepe – Ibn Gabirol 14, Tel Aviv
Double Injra Beintu at Tanat, (NIS 42)
Vegans, arise! Tanat is the best vegan restaurant you've never heard of. Tanat offers an introduction to Ethiopian cooking, with a series of appetizing, cheap and healthy dishes. Injra Beintu includes injra bread with three dishes: lentils, siah (Ethiopian humus) and beet leaves, with a salad. Those already familiar with Ethiopian cooking could try the mushroom injra.
Tip: a single Injra dish costs NIS 35; adding one of the cheap shakes – such as avocado – costs only NIS 15 more.
Tanat, Chlenov 27, Tel Aviv
Chicken chili masala at Namaste (NIS 50)
The Namaste restaurant in Ashdod offers several main courses costing exactly NIS 50 (with vegetarian dishes costing even less). One of Namaste's popular dishes is the chicken chili masala, a rather hot dish including chicken strips with green peppers, generously spiced in the Indian manner. The entrees at Namaste are also interesting, so pay attention to the menu offer of sampling them all for NIS 48.
Namaste, 10 HaTayelet, Mei Ami Beach, Ashdod
Steamed rolls with beef ribs at The Bun (NIS 39)
The Bun offers a successful and pointed variation of Asian street food, so obviously prices cannot be sky high. Most of the dishes don't cost more than NIS 50, including the leading dish, the steamed rolls, which are served as two units with three options for their fillings. We chose long cooked beef ribs on barbecue miso sauce with a sour pickle. Vegetarians can pick tofu instead. And it's great to sit in the Carmel market dreaming of a trip to the Far East.
The Bun, 18 Hilel Hazaken, Tel Aviv
Giant schnitzel with mashed potatoes, at The Diner by Goocha (NIS 47)
With schnitzel prices in restaurants rising to above NIS 70, it's comforting to meet a sane dish every once in a while. The Diner by Goocha (and the Goocha chain in general) are committed to serve large dishes for sensible prices, such as schnitzel with mustard and pepper sauce served on tasty buttery mashed potatoes (which can be swapped for French Fries). The advantage of the dish is, naturally its immense size. It's a shame there aren't more diners here in Israel.
Tip: For some time now, the Diner has offered a 1+1 deal for a classic burger, meaning that for NIS 51 you get two hamburgers. Every day, all day long.
The Diner by Goocha, 14, Ibn Gabirol, Tel Aviv.
Acharolli at Khachapuria (NIS 29)
Khachapuria is a successful mix of a stand and a restaurant, focusing on authentic Georgian pastries, baked according to ancient tradition. At first, they look of average size, but it is very difficult to move after finishing one. Everyone there will recommend the khachapuri, but we actually enjoyed the acharolli more, being an open khachapuri filled with cheese, butter and fried egg. Warning: On Fridays you might have to wait in line for quite some time.
Khachapuria, 5 Hashikma, Jerusalem.
Fig leaves at Jos & Los (NIS 48)
Jos & Los has a reputation for being expensive ,especially due to the establishment's creativity and it's use of fine ingredients, but excellent dishes can be found for here reasonable prices nonetheless.
This dish is like an old friend: always there, and whenever you bump into them, you're sorry you don't meet more often. The fig leaves are stuffed with rice and fried eggplants, tomatoes and local. To avoid overcooking in the oven, the dish is covered with a crust of potatoes, which becomes crispy when baked. Served with yogurt.
Tip: From 12:00 to 5:00 P.M. the dish is served with six tapas and bread.
Jos & Los, 51 Yehuda Halevi, Tel Aviv
Chorizos at Moshbutz
It's rather difficult to find a good place to eat in the Golan Heights without selling a kidney. That's why we're so pleased with Moshbutz, a country-style, romantic restaurant-bar. We focused on the chorizo sausages that can serve as a great entrée for a couple, or something to snack on with drinks. Two hot chorizo sausages served in a frying pan with crispy nachos.
Moshbutz, Ramon, Golan Heights
Chili con carne at Hatarnegol (NIS 36)
When a place defines itself as a chef restaurant for blue collar workers, you don't expect a dish to cost more than 44 NIS - and that dish should boast some nice treats on the side to boot. Hatarnegol's chili con carne is exactly that: A hill of white rice topped with a hot chili dish that will definitely whet your appetite. The dish is made of minced meat, fresh tomatoes, white beans, peppers and Tabasco and there is even a touch of chocolate somewhere. The side dishes include tahini, bread and olives.
Tip: When so many dishes are cheaply priced, it's not easy to choose, so the menu offers a meal for two at NIS 116.
Caprese at Allora NIS (48)
Allora offers straight to the point Italian cuisine. The caprese dish is an appetizer , but we chose it since it is a large, generous dish, and much more than a salad. Several kinds of tomatoes, together with anchovy and mozzarella cheese would have been enough, but Alorra also adds a wonderful focaccia which further upgrades the dish.
Tip: Allora also offers a business lunch for under NIS 50.
Allora, 60 Rothschild, Tel Aviv
Tomato and parmesan panna in the oven, at Lala, (NIS 49)
Lala is located in the Jezreel Valley, and is well known for its large, generous dishes. Among the many pastas produced on location we opted for the tomato and parmesan panna. It is prepared in the oven, which leaves the panna with scorched ends, and the parmesan with a slight smoked taste, lending the dish a feel of a much lighter and more satisfying form of lasagna. Bonus: the salad served on the side.
Lala, Kfar Sarid Junction