The Carmel Market is, it seems, the place with the highest share of eateries per square meter in Israel, with at least one new restaurant or food stall opening each month. Each one offers a dizzying array of options, so we made the tough choices and compiled a list of the best dishes in Israel’s most colorful market.
Pita with spring chickenand sheep fat — Carmel
You can eat especially delicious pitas at the Carmel pita stand all day long, and hamburgers in the evening, not to mention one of the tastiest crispy chicken sandwiches in the city. Even for critics as decisive as we are, it’s hard to choose the best dish here. We almost went with the crispy chicken sandwich, but in the end we opted for the pita with spring chicken (pullet) and sheep fat. The blend of juicy chicken singed on the grill with the fat is excellent, together with tahina, good spiced tomato sauce and a bit of amba (a tangy mango condiment) gives us a pita that’s hard to beat, for 42 shekels.
Carmel, Hillel Hazaken 18, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Fisherman’s sandwich — Hacarmel 40
At Rostom Fish’s food stall, they’ll grill fresh fish and seafood for you on the plancha – which is its own fun experience – and it even has fantastic ceviche, but the crowning glory is their fisherman’s sandwich. This is a Turkish-style “Balk Ekmek” sandwich, with an exceptionally delicious Israeli twist. Served on crispy bread, you’ll find a whole, perfectly scorched sea bream, complete with slightly crispy skin, tomatoes, lots of greens and drizzles of lemony aioli that hold it all together, for 40 shekels.
Hacarmel 40, Hacarmel 40, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
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Pita mix — Pita Panda
If you pass by the Pita Panda stand, you’ll pretty much always find a line, and that line is entirely justified, because they prepare some of the most flavorful pitas in Tel Aviv. Even Jamie Oliver gushed over it in one of the episodes of his show. The Panda experience starts with the unique pitas, which are steamed in bamboo, and then moves on to a range of fillings, from sabich to a refreshing cold ceviche. But we went with a relatively new menu item: A mixture of their beef and eggplant pitas. This one is full of sloppy joe meat made of flank and veal rib with loads of caramelized onion, together with tender fried eggplants and topped with tahini, beet chutney and lots of veggies, for 45 shekels – or 35, for the smaller version.
Pita Panda, Malan 45, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Shawarma in pita — Gerti Doner
Ziv Gerti’s shawarma stand is one of the newest arrivals in the market, and has already managed to wrangle in an enthusiastic and adoring public. Gerti’s shawarma is a combination of chunks of mutton and rump, which give it a strong taste so different from the chicken and turkey shawarmas we’re used to. Beyond that, they include pistachio pieces, which add more flavor as well as an interesting texture. Joining the meat in the pita are an outstanding tahini and vegetables, Nothing else necessary, all for 38 shekels.
Gerti Doner - Yom Tov 17, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Won ton — Giveret Kwaytiew
To tell the truth, every single dish on the menu here could easily make the list. But this time, we chose the won ton dumplings. These are thin dough dumplings prepared on the spot, with a rump meat filling, all sailing their way through a spiced, rich duck broth. Added on top is a bit of spicy sauce, tons of fried garlic and fresh scallion. All together, they make a meal that flies off the plate, for 48 shekels.
Giveret Kwaytiew - Yom Tov 2, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Cheese khinkalis — Lela
In Lili Ben-Shalom’s kingdom of Georgian baked goods, the huge selection of khachapuri pastries can be overwhelming, but the khinkali dumplings won. The pouches of thick dough are steamed, soft and tasty, and filled with salty Georgian cheese that melts in every bite. There are no sharp flavors here and nothing out of the ordinary; it is nothing more than a wondrous blend of dough and cheese, for 32 shekels.
Lela - Haim Havshush 39, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Holstein cheese — Holstein
The burger at Bshara Hinnawi’s hamburger restaurant is still one of the most outstanding in the city, due to the wonderful meat butchered by Hinnawi himself. We prefer the cheeseburger, with cheddar, over the more over-the-top versions, because the meat sort of gets lost in the others. In this one, the hamburger really takes center stage. Cheddar is the perfect cheese to go along with a burger that is bursting with flavor, and it comes wrapped up in a good bun, for 62 shekels.
Holstein, Yom Tov 17, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Burika in pita — Burika Carmel Market
Arriving at the Carmel Market, you will hear thundering shouts of “burika burika burika!” from Kobi, the owner of this stall, who apparently swallowed a megaphone as a child. The brik (a sort of deep-fried borek) here is especially tasty, and comes in several versions, including one with mutton. We remain loyal to the classic version, with potato and soft-boiled egg, which is served in a pita. Come to think of it, this is carbs inside carbs inside carbs, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that it tastes so good, for 20 shekels.
Burika Carmel Market - Carmel 20, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Fish carpaccio — Merloza
This small fish restaurant is one of the most pleasant places to escape the tumult of the market for a brief moment. Merloza’s menu is also brief, and is built around fish and vegetable dishes that are fun to eat with more than a little alcohol. There are several tasty options here, but we especially like their fish carpaccio. The fish itself varies in accordance with supply, but it always comes with a blend of fresh and dry za’atar, sumac, yellow pepper cream, pistachios and olive oil, and is such a refreshing, irresistible and Israeli blend of flavors, for 54 shekels.
Merloza - Haim Havshush 39 , Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Vegan taco — Los Gringos
This little taco stand prepares several versions of Mexican-American style tacos – meat, vegetarian and vegan. Of all of them, we particularly liked the vegan, which draws its inspiration, strangely enough, from Korean cuisine. Small, crispy cubes of tofu in a slightly pungent and robustly flavored Korean chili sauce, with fresh onion and tomato. It’s a simple combination, not exactly Mexican, but oh so yummy, at 18 shekels for one taco, 35 shekels for two, or 52 shekels for three.
Los Gringos - Yom Tov 30, Tel Aviv-Jaffa