Sandwiches are nice. Pizza is fun. Grilled meat on skewers is classic. But none of these standbys sparks anywhere near the level of buzz that builds up whenever a new hamburger joint opens in this town.
If you happened to spend the last couple of years in a cave, I’ve got news for you – Tel Aviv is teeming with hamburger places. Suddenly, everyone’s doing hamburgers. Chefs who not so long ago looked down on this humble food started making their own special versions.
Nowadays, you can toss a hamburger bun anywhere in Tel Aviv and it’s bound to hit a hamburger.
With a reasonable or better burger to be found almost everywhere now, from fancy restaurants to fast food joints, we decided to return to our roots and to this column’s true purpose – examining what exactly is happening in the Tel Aviv street food scene.
In honor of International Hamburger Day which falls this week, we decided to rank – once and for all – the best hamburgers in Tel Aviv. Well, at least in the opinion of this write – and in the street food category. That’s why excellent hamburgers like the ones at Hudson, Ha’achim and Ya Pan don’t appear on the list. In the same spirit, we also did not include the hamburger chains, but rather on small places where the hamburger is the loving focus. Not just a restaurant that has a hamburger on the menu, but a true hamburger joint.
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So, with no further ado, I present you “The Top Ten hamburgers in Tel Aviv.”
10th place: Ad Ha’etzem Express
In an age where few places are opening that specialize in just one thing, Ad Ha’etzem Express is a refreshing restaurant with one main, simple concept – thin, small hamburgers (120 grams): one or two or three in a soft bun with a choice of toppings (cheese, onion, sunny-side-up egg), a generous portion of fries and a drink with free refills. Bottom line: We can happily report that every part of this equation is quite solid.
The prices – which are lower than all the other hamburger places in town – haven’t changed at all in the years since it opened, and that’s also something to appreciate. More importantly, the quality has been more or less preserved too. Nice? Yes. Tasty? Definitely. Cheap? Relatively. Cool? If you’re a certain age. Does the trick? For sure.
Ad Ha’etzem Express. 21 Ibn Gvirol st., 77 King George st., Tel Aviv-Yafo
Opening hours: Sunday-Wednesday 12 P.M. - 3 P.M. / Sat-Thurs 12 A.M. - 4: 30 P.M.
9th place: Captain
Captain, a diner specializing in burgers and fries, made a smart move by opening its first Tel Aviv branch (the original restaurant is in Jerusalem) in the least Tel Aviv-like spot in Tel Aviv: Hapil Junction. The distance from the city center serves Captain well in some ways (obscures its weak spots, or at least makes them more tolerable, given the lack of nearby alternatives), but it also makes it harder to draw people who might make a special trip to go there. A few minor improvements in the food, though, and it could happen.
Captain. 280 Bnei Efraim st., Tel Aviv-Yafo. Phone: 03-6917593
Opening hours: Sun-Thursday and Saturdays 11 A.M – 1 P.M. Fridays 11 A.M – 6 P.M
8th place: Memphis
The hamburger here can go head to head with the best burgers in the city. Excellent beef in a well-balanced patty that’s juicy but not bursting with fat, and has a slightly coarse texture that preserves the original flavors and doesn’t flatten or obscure them. The lack of spices and onion is all for the good, as there is nothing to detract from the thing itself. The result is a terrific hamburger that gets support from a soft, sweet, lightly toasted bun that can also hold its ground against its finest counterparts in Tel Aviv. And this hamburger is kosher, too.
Memphis. 20 Carlebach st., Tel Aviv-Yafo
Opening hours: Sun-Wed 12 P.M – 12 A.M, Thursdays 12 P.M. until the last customer
7th place: Susu and Sons
This is one of the most popular hamburgers in Tel Aviv in the last few years. The main reason: Chef Omer Miller. The hamburger patties here (the beef comes from the Meat Market butcher shop) are fantastic: meaty, juicy, delectable, perfectly grilled. They were so good that we somewhat regretted going for the smaller burger on the menu. It’s a mistake that a lot of people probably make at this place. The toppings and various hamburger combinations steal most of the attention here, tempting you to try them at the expense of the main attraction. But take heed and try to restrain yourselves.
Susu and Sons. 6 Herzl st. (corner of Rothschild Boulevard), Tel Aviv-Yafo
Opening hours: all week, 12 P.M until the last customer (will operate 24/7 in the future)
6th place: Little Burger Shop
This is a small stall and the aroma of grilling wafts out of its half-open kitchen. There’s a counter for placing orders and a few seats outdoors. The location, in the middle of Dizengoff Street, isn’t bad. There are a lot of bars on this stretch, so despite the proliferation of hamburger places in the city, another quick food option in the area will surely be welcomed. Each hamburger comes with three toppings at no extra charge. This spares you the extra price calculations and a burger that gets more expensive with each topping, and also makes something of a game out of which combination of toppings you’ll choose, prompting you to want to come back and try something different the next time. And we haven’t even said anything yet about the Heston Blumenthal inspired burger.
The Little Burger Shop. 125 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv-Yafo
Phone: 052-8746833. Opening hours: 12 P.M to the last customer
5th place: Meat Bar Burger
At Meat Bar Burger, as the name implies, they serve just one thing. With one topping. The only choices you have are whether to put cheese on top and whether to ask for the mayonnaise-hot pepper sauce. Next to some of the more elaborate hamburger places in the city, this seems kind of paltry at first. Here they believe that the quality of the burger (200 grams) can do the job alone. So kudos to Meat Bar Burger – The burgers here were perfectly grilled to just the right level of doneness, they had a pleasing texture, were juicy and especially flavorful.
Meat Bar Burger is inside the Sharona Market (Aluf Kalman Magen St 3, Tel Aviv-Yafo)
The market operates seven days a week:
Sun-Thurs 9 A.M.- 10 P.M
Fridays and holiday eves 8 A.M - 5 P.M
Saturdays and on holidays 9A.M. - 11 P.M.
4th place: Port 19
There are makeovers that are very successful, and repeat visits that hold pleasant surprises, and such was the case when we visited Port 19. I ordered the “Swiss burger” – a hamburger coated in Emmental cheese and fried bacon bits, and topped with lamb bacon. This was one of the biggest culinary surprises I’ve had lately. It was really one of the best burgers in town. So when you’re keeping a list in your head of Tel Aviv’s best and most popular burgers, make sure to add Port 19 Meat Shack now too.
Port 19. 2 Shlomo ha-Melekh St., Tel Aviv-Yafo
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11 A.M. - 12 A.M.
Fridays and holiday eves: 11 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Saturdays and holidays: 11:30 A.M. - 1 P.M.
3rd place: America Burgers
At America Burgers, they don’t want you to feel like you’re at the corner of Allenby and Ahad Ha’am. Take one step into this not-so-big diner – a bar, a few tables, one couch along the wall – and you get the sense you’ve been in this place, or somewhere like it, before. Not in Tel Aviv; maybe in Brooklyn, or Paris, or Berlin. And it works. If you’re looking for signs of progress and improvement in Tel Aviv street food, America Burgers is a wonderful example.
America Burgers. Allenby St 112, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Phone: 03-528-0281. Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday and Saturday: 6 P.M - 1 A.M.
2nd place: Prozdor
The people at Prozdor are only interested in one thing – hamburgers. Specifically, the 16 different hamburgers served here where burgers are the only main dish on the menu. With two obvious exceptions (the vegetarian burger based on a leek-beet patty, and the vegan burger made from portobello mushrooms), they all have the same starting point – a 150-gram beef burger. But from here they go in all kinds of directions, as far as names and the toppings they get, which can be slightly dizzying. Three different hamburgers were sampled and each was delicious in its own way. This 100-percent success rate was no statistical fluke.
Prozdor. Mendele Mokher Sfarim St 6, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Phone: 03-5233223. Opening hours: Everyday 6 P.M. - 12 A.M.
1st place: Vitrina Lili
Tel Aviv hype usually wears off after a while, but the hype surrounding Vitrina Lili hasn’t subsided; it’s only grown. So much so, that at some point it threatened to overwhelm and drown the place. Even the restaurant’s most devoted regular customers started to qualify their experience there with a “yes, but” The long lines, the crowds, the difficulty getting service. But the final result is still worth it, even if getting in is sometimes a tad difficult.
Vitrina Lili. Lilienblum St 40, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Phone: 03-696-0304ץ Opening hours: Sunday-Wednesday: 12 P.M. - 11 P.M. Thursdays: 12 P.M. - 12 A.M. Closed on Fridays and Saturdays