After spending time in the streets around the Levinsky Market and discovering, among other things, some surprising hole-in-the-wall market eateries and pubs with surprising music, it’s time for the real thing, the Carmel Market. Recent years have brought a flourishing of market restaurants, kebab joints and pubs, all only a few meters apart. The past year has been especially kind to the alleyways around the Yemenite Quarter, with really good cafes, food stands with only one or two items on the menus, and pleasant excursions like an Asian food stand or a surprising fish stand. But put on some stout shoes, because in the evenings here the streets get washed with a fearsome flood, and come with us. Here are our recommendations for an early evening or night out in and around the Carmel Market.
Minzar is at the top of the list of pub eateries. Its chefs prepare the best bar food alongside original dishes that you won’t find anywhere else and the excitement you’ll feel is usually reserved for fancier spots. Don’t let the scruffy appearance fool you. Have a cold Guinness or dry cider on tap, try a new German beer and give the Calvados chasers a chance. From the kitchen, choose a spicy dish like Thai salad, seared scallops with bacon and pea cream and mint, or pickled brochettes from the sea, rump tataki and Japanese salad, fried sea bass with nam pla sauce and Thai mango salad, seared duck breast with carrot and orange cream and Chinese barbecued spareribs.
60 Allenby, Tel Aviv. 03-5173015
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One of the best restaurants in town is hiding in a mall alleyway off the main market street. It’s also modest looking, but has one of the greatest kitchens in Tel Aviv right now. The menu pays ample respect to the gifts of the sea and other classics, with local interpretations. It changes frequently, but try the polenta and mussels, grouper steak with vegetables, pork neck, pork shawarma, okra pakora, Jerusalem artichoke ravioli and spicy cheese. The most fun here is a pile of small dishes next to a gin and tonic and for dessert, pear cactus sorbet or lemon mousse. There’s also one of the finest wine lists you’ll find anywhere that even world wine connoisseurs will find surprising.
4 Hashomer, Tel Aviv. 03-5169234
This understated place opened about a year ago, advertising in what looked like a gimmick that customers could pay what they wanted. Last may the concept fell through and was changed to a regular menu that varies daily, but the food is original and carefully prepared relative to the area, and you should pop in if you’re around there. The menu features lamb carbonara and vegetables, lamb salad, vegan eggplant lasagna, a particularly fine hamburger, salmon mozzarella carpaccio, fish and chips and freekeh salad. There are cocktails that try hard and desserts like chocolate fudge and whipped cream and salty caramel popcorn. Eclectic and pleasant.
22 Yishkon, Tel Aviv. 054-6267822
This new kebab stand wants to give Romanian kebab a renaissance, and people will be talking about it. Mitch’s kebab is plump and small, redolent with garlic and very high in fat. You can get it in a pita or plated with homemade salads like eggplant and roasted peppers, thick, delicious chimichurri, fresh-crushed garlic, homemade pickles and crisp, round fries. Alongside Romanian spritz or draft beer this small stand can be the perfect little corner, but take into account that the smell of the garlic will outlast your hangover. They also sell frozen kebabs to take home.
Haim Habshush 31, Tel Aviv. 054-7503052
Opposite Mitch, we found Pepo, a little stand, with burekas baked by a Turkish friend of the family. The dough is crispy even at the end of the day and filled with potato, cheese, spinach or spinach and cheese. They’re served on a plate with pickles and olives, spicy tomato sauce and a hard-boiled egg, the perfect supper on your way back from the beach. Pepo served Alma beer on tap and hosts a jam session every Tuesday night. The average price for a burekas is 20 shekels.
Haim Habshush 32, Tel Aviv. 03-9307676
This particularly fun bar opened five years ago at the end of the Carmel Market’s main drag, and turned out to be the secret haunt of real Tel Avivians. This small place pours a mean sweet-and-sour cocktail and serves real Mediterranean food. Portions are generous and some of the cocktails almost serve two. The kitchen produces bread patties with sour cream and tomato sauce, Palestinian sausages fried in the pan with Baharat, yoghurt, almonds and rice, pastries filled with lamb and hot goat-milk yoghurt, Istanbul sandwich - a giant piece of good, old-time bread filled with ground meat, tomatoes, spicy sauce and tahini in the oven. There’s also light bar fare like thin pizza with Gouda cheese and roasted peppers, tomato salad, cauliflower and almond tahini. Don’t miss the malabi for dessert with crunchy nuts and Turkish coffee syrup. Take note, there’s a special Kabalat Shabbat menu at noon on Fridays with a selection of fish and seafood dishes, and ouzo to wash it down.
Hacarmel 7, Tel Aviv. 03-5101695
This bar on the edges of the Yemenite Quarter right before Hakovshim Street is worth getting to know if you like charcoal-grilled kebab and innards. It’s dark and pleasant, aimed at an adult crowd that's open to drinks that pay homage to the neighborhood, like malabi with coconut and rosewater, an Old Fashioned with rum spiced with cardamom and coffee beans and vermouth hawaij with orange bitters. First courses include a platter of sausages or vegetables and a set of salads with bread and spicy sauce, but the grill’s the thing. A plate of lamb, lamb tonsils, grilled pullets, and lamb fillet in honey, cardamom and mustard leaves, arias – spiced ground meat baked in half a pita - and a dish of mixed innards for the brave. Open every night from 6 P.M., appetizer and main course at 89 shekels.
Hakovshim 55, Tel Aviv. 03-6561636
Fish and Chips Market
Checkered wax tablecloths cover tables in a narrow alleyway. Chef Hai Ratzabi doesn’t take himself too seriously, but his fish are another matter. The brief menu includes toasted fish and chips cod or red mullet accompanied by a crispy roll. Fresh fish ceviche is also on hand with vegetables and fruit on the side, and a choice of fresh fish from the fish store next door. Prices are so ridiculously low you’ll have trouble finding a dish for more than 40 shekels. Real street food with good, old-fashioned malabi for desert.
Open every day (except Fridays and Saturdays) until 7 P.M.
Thursdays open until last diner leaves.
Yom Tov 7, Tel Aviv. 03-7399953
This Japanese gastro-bar is one of the latest in the new generation of Carmel Market restaurants. Diners share space at wooden tables and the menu offers a fine selection of sushi and spicy dishes from all over Asia. You’ll find dishes to share like spicy Thai salad, sea fish ceviche, chicken gyoza with spicy seaweed salad (35–40 shekels a dish). After these appetizers you can enjoy a variety of sushi rolls or move on to a main course of carefully prepared pad Thai with chicken, tofu, meat or shrimp (45–75 shekels). There are also classic chicken or beef dishes with eggplant and Japanese curry. Worthwhile and distinct, especially in this area.
Yehiya Kapakh 2, Tel Aviv. 03-5105047
The people that brought you Night Kitchen, the shared dishes restaurant on Lilienblum in Tel Aviv, recently opened a place with a similar concept in the Carmel Market area. It’s open from 8 A.M. for small, creative breakfasts like picked salmon in beets with cream cheese and toast, and challah filled with sunny-side-up eggs and spinach and feta cheese and on to lunch with a big market salad, pumpkin and yellow-tomato shakshuka and burekas filled with pumpkin and cheeses with spicy sauce (31–42 shekels). The place has a hall that’s only open until 6 P.M. for now, but it seems that its strength is in its business meals, served until closing time with three first courses, bread and a main course at the modest price of 59 shekels. First courses include eggplant masabakha, tomato carpaccio and beets with Tulum cheese and walnuts. Main courses feature cauliflower and vegetables, sea fish kebab with tzadziki and tomatoes, meat kebab with traditional Yemenite flat bread and tahini, squid stuffed with Swiss chard and black rice, and more. Frozen cocktails, wine by the glass, and desserts at ridiculously low prices make this eatery a celebration.
Rabbi Meir 21, Tel Aviv
This bar, popular with tourists and under-appreciated by the locals, is located on a street near the market and offers a variety of beers on tap and generous, unusual dishes. Appetizers include liver pate with goose fat, pickled camembert with black bread and garlic and herring with sour cream and fried potatoes. Main courses include pork sausages, beef with cheese or spicy lamb, roasted pork with boiled red cabbage, cordon bleu, marinated pork ribs and a carnivore plate.
56 Allenby, Tel Aviv. 03-5168137
Standing just a few dozen meters from each other in the Carmel Market are the two branches of this bar. One is a stand with seven places to sit, and is a favorite for people who like to drink their beer standing up. The other is a hole-in-the-wall open only during the day. The name gives it offers about 100 kinds of beer from all over the world. What’s surprising here is that there’s food too, and it’s not bad at all. The cliché says it’s based on fresh market ingredients, but wherever they got your roast beef sandwich from, it’s a winner, especially next to a cold beer on a hot August day. Another branch opened last year in the Levinsky Market, where you’ll find a grand alcohol menu alongside dishes with portions big enough to share, specializing in fish and other fresh ingredients from the nearby market.
Rambam 1, Tel Aviv. 03-6125029