The Roast of the Town: Tel Aviv's New Best Shawarma

An unassuming meat bar that recently opened near Rabin Square turns out to serve some of the best shawarma you've ever had.

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A few months ago, I passed by a new shawarma place opposite Tel Aviv's Rabin Square and resolved to check it out sometime. As it turned out, I never got the chance. The place closed down within a month – record time even for Tel Aviv. The odds were always against it, located just 50 meters from the popular and crowded shawarma destination Dabush.

Then, two weeks ago, a restaurant called Ha'itliz opened at the same location. Based on its name, which translates as "The Butcher," I figured it would be just another meat bar, serving deli sandwiches with various kinds of spreads. As it turns out, Ha'itliz roasts various cuts of meat a la plancha, or grilled on a metal plate, and the selection is more extensive than at most other places.

On my first visit, my gaze was immediately drawn to a doner, or vertical spit, roasting deep brown, juicy meat in the corner of the restaurant. Noticing my curiosity, the young (and hunky) chef asked, “Do you eat kosher? Because if you don’t, you have to try this.” After I assured him I was up for it, he cut several thin slices of lamb meat off the spit and placed them, along with pine and pistachio nuts, into a hot piece of Moroccan frena bread (by now a staple of Tel Aviv street food). When I asked him what was unkosher about the dish, he explained that the spit was soaked in milk. That got my imagination going.

But let's set my fantasies aside and get down to business. You must have the doner meat at Ha’itliz. You must. Have it for lunch today. Don't wait. As of now, it's the best shawarma in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Yes, it's better than Shawarma Bino (the shawarma I liked best until I stepped into Ha’atliz). You know what? It’s even better than the best-known shawarma places in Haifa. Words can hardly do justice to its wonderful taste. The tender, juicy meat, with only a bit of excellent spicing, goes perfectly with the nuts, and is complemented by all the other ingredients on offer – including peppers, pickled lemon, top-notch amba sauce and pickled onion – even though they aren’t really necessary.

A portion of doner meat in a frena costs NIS 36 at Ha’itliz. True, it’s not very big and it’s not cheap, but there are quite a few shawarmas out there that cost more and are not nearly as good. Ha'itliz is the real deal. It's here to stay, and not just to hang around, but to become an enormous hit. As the chef offered slices of the the meat to customers and passersby, he half-apologetically explained that the restaurant was still in its trial run. Just think what it'll taste like by the time you get there.

Ha’itliz, 8 Malchei Yisrael Street, Tel Aviv

The restaurant.Credit: Oren Ziv
The sandwich.Credit: Oren Ziv

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