There’s magic among the alleyways of the Jaffa flea market. Everything here is bustling, lively and noisy, one could say restless, and at the same time there’s a sense of serenity and a feeling that time has stopped.
During the daytime the busy market is a warren of stalls and shops selling clothes, chotchkes, old furniture and old stories looking for a final chance. In the evening, all that gives way to those whose time is here and now and whose story beckons from all directions — people laughing out loud, talking, eating and raising a toast from every corner of the ancient streets. A genuine celebration of life.
The restaurants, bars and eateries in the area of the flea market have been experiencing a reawakening. In light of the appetizing culinary offerings, we went to the market in order to welcome the new places and meet up with old friends. A foodie tour of the flea market and environs — that’s how it is when you fall in love again.
Chefs Idan Peretz and Tomer Agai, two cuisines from different and contrasting worlds, joined forces and created a successful and exciting combination in the guise of a tasty and simple Levantine cuisine that only recently joined the area’s eateries. The bar-restaurant is inside a square in the Greek market. There’s outdoor seating on the plaza as well as an indoor space and a delightful bar, with a unique and elegant cocktail menu. In the center of the kitchen you’ll also find a magnificent taboun clay oven (that wouldn’t shame even the veteran Abulafia bakery), from which quite a few piping hot pizzas and other fragrant dishes emerge. Chicken confit in goose fat, a salad of fresh ful (fava beans) and raw red drum fish wrapped in hot pepper, with bulgur wheat, crushed lemon and yogurt that has been dubbed “torn beach ball” because of its shape.
Suitable for: passionate foodies, a food-centered romantic date or guys in flip-flops who come for pizza and beer. In other words, everyone.
4 Pinhas Ben-Yair St.
Chef Uri Levy’s Raisa opened just recently in the heart of the bustling flea market. It offers diners a fun Mediterranean cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Fresh ingredients are more than just a cliché here, and the chef makes sure to use only Israeli fish and fresh seafood — a bonus that is not self-evident in today’s restaurant market. A quick glance at the menu and you’ll see that in addition to a large selection of dishes from the sea, you’ll also find interesting mezes and noshes, first courses and small portions of meat. The calm atmosphere during the day gives way to an ethnic and more joyous atmosphere at night and on weekends.
Suitable for: Friends who stay in touch over a beer and couples who want a fun place in which to spend time. Also suitable for large groups.
8 Rabbi Yohanan St.
Stretching north of the flea market, across from the amazing Jaffa beach, the new Parakalo restaurant brings Greek cuisine several meters to the right of Israel’s coast. With good and simple raw ingredients (which are actually the whole secret of this cuisine), they have assembled a rich menu here of cold and hot mezes along with fresh fish dishes, main courses, light salads and several breakfasts that don’t diverge from the restaurant’s strictly Greek menu. The well executed pastoral design, along with the pleasant breeze and the seascape, create an atmosphere that’s hard to beat. The alcohol menu includes a number of types of ouzo, to complete the experience.
Suitable for: Friends and families that want to open a table on a pleasant Mediterranean wave, or to begin the morning with positive energies. The sea in the background will complement any daytime or evening experience.
6 Nahum Goldman St.
Pundak Deluxe, of the Deluxe Group, which introduced the American culture of smoked meats into the Israeli mainstream. The professional and uncompromising place offers sworn carnivores a large selection of meats that undergo a process of slow and meticulous smoking by hand — each cut is treated differently. After soaking, seasoning and smoking, the meat reaches the customer at its peak and is served with sauces on a metal tray, for eating with your hands (the closest you’ll get to “Game of Thrones”) or inside a sandwich (if you are wimps). One can also find fun and addictive additions that only daring restaurateurs know how to serve, like a plump macaroni and cheese with peas and bacon (order your own, we’re not sharing), classic coleslaw and hot and crispy cornbread, along with an extensive menu of boutique beers.
Suitable for: carnivores and gourmands of all types, Israelis and tourists.
7 Olei Tzion St.
In the south of the flea market you can find Onza, the lively Turkish sister of Kitchen Market. The dynamic menu is based on the various offerings of Ottoman cuisine interpreted by chefs Arik Darhani and Muli Magriso, graduates of elite restaurants. You’ll find Turkish-style hors d’oeuvres, main courses and good things from the taboun that you can down with generous cocktails from a menu that was planned especially for the restaurant. Every Sunday there’s a real Turkish celebration here, with unique dishes like spinach bourekas made from a very thick yufka dough, fried barbounia fish and anchovies, lots of ethnic music and chasers that will cap everything.
Suitable for: Young people who like to raise a drink and have fun with something tasty at hand, and groups that are looking for a creative place that combines good alcohol with well-honed food in meticulously designed surroundings.
3 Rabbi Hanina St.
When you feel like getting something good and hot to go, the magical encounter between melted cheese and very fresh dough does the trick. At Tashtash Shvili, a new khachapuri place from the owners of Tash and Tasha, which is right around the corner, you’ll find the traditional Georgian food in a variety of styles and with unusual additions — mushrooms and garlic, caramelized onions, blue cheese and more.
Alongside the boat-shaped bundle of cheesy goodness one can drink a beer or a Georgian lemonade (“natakhtari,” which has little in common with lemonade, but is no less tasty and flowing), and lovers of churchkhela, a snack of walnuts and grape must, can finish here with a sweet munch. For those who are too lazy, the place makes deliveries to Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Bat Yam, for special events too.
Suitable for: People passing through the market and people who come just for a moment in order to solve the hunger problem along the way, without compromising.
15 Olei Tzion St.
The fresh and aromatic cuisines of Vietnam and Thailand are represented in Jaffa by the Asia restaurant, which brings to the flea market the tastes and smells of the Asian Golden Triangle. Chefs Lilach Raveh and Omri Zakheim have created a menu full of crisp vegetables, fish, seafood, meats and a variety of handmade dumplings, and maybe you’ll even get to see them in action while you gaze into the open kitchen from the bar.
Recently a new and heartwarming dim sum menu was launched here, which you can enjoy from 7 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. Sunday through Thursday, with original Asian mezes and small dishes (and not necessarily the familiar steamed dumplings) and a sea curry, crushed by hand with lemony herbs, enriched coconut milk, rice noodles, shrimps, scallops and mussels, served with cilantro and chili.
Suitable for: Families that like spicy food and groups of friends that want to share tastes from their last trip, but in style.
3 Rabbi Nahman St.
And here are a few more that shouldn’t be missed:
Italkia Bapishpishim – An Italian street restaurant located on the most prominent corner of the flea market. It offers a variety of homemade pastas, gnocchi and pizzas, in a relaxed atmosphere. Don’t miss the wonderful mushroom risotto, and the spinach and ricotta ravioli will warm the hearts of lovers of the plump dumplings. 16 Olei Tzion St.
Hasoania – A Balkan eatery with a happy family atmosphere. Hasoania is located in the heart of the Greek market, in an ancient building space dating from the Byzantine period. Until now the restaurant served mainly familiar Mediterranean dishes like Greek souvlaki and Turkish borek, but there’s a new guiding spirit now. About a month ago chef Alon Barnea joined the team and he promises a new menu very soon, much tighter and tastier. 18 Shimon Hatzadik St.
Casino San Remo – Chef Noa Levy is in charge of the menu, which centers around beloved Mediterranean cuisine. One can also find various breakfasts, not only for tourists. Another advantage is the cocktails, sold throughout the day for 25 shekels each. 2 Nehama St.