Not every bar aspires to be the "next big thing." Nor does every place have a well-oiled PR machine behind it or an annoying Facebook group pestering you with daily updates. There are some places –refreshingly free of publicity and hipster hype – that you only hear about through word of mouth or stumble upon. These are the ones worth getting to know. And here are a few of the best in Tel Aviv.
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Your neighborhood joint: October
In a city that seems to have a bar on every corner and more bar owners than drinkers, you can pick out the rare places that have been born and nurtured in love. October is such a place, thanks to its three owners Ronit, Sahar and Amir – all born in October. The three have chalked up impressive experience managing some of the hottest bars in Tel Aviv and elsewhere (Nanuchka, Shoshana Johnson, the Peacock, and Inga, to name a few). But October is the sort of bar they'd rather sit in themselves – a bar for those who have grown tired of dancing on tables and chasing girls, and know how to appreciate good alcohol, well-made food, a refined playlist, proper beer measures, and two great front porches overlooking the street. They literally built the place with their own hands, from the bar itself to the wine glass holders, wall decorations and door handles. Many bars open and close in this city, but you'll seldom come across a new bar conceived in this much experience and love.
The vibe: Summer heat
Who's who: 20 plus, at heart
Sex appeal: Refined
Prices: Beers on tap: Tuborg – NIS 24/28; Stella, Guinness and Weihenstephan – NIS 26/30. Chasers: arak – NIS 12; vodka – NIS 15, whiskey – NIS 18.
Food: Bruschetta with sea bream and radish; bruschetta with tomatoes and a green salad – NIS 36; leek fritters in a yogurt sauce – NIS 26.
Recommended: Happy hour every day until 21:00, with a chaser or 1/3 liter of beer on the house with every drink.
October, Ahad Ha'am 60. Open Sun-Sat, 7 P.M. (8 P.M. Friday) until the last customer leaves.
One to sink your teeth into: Meat Bar Next Door
Here you can find (nearly) all of life's pleasures – juicy red meat, alcohol that flows like water, good music, happy people having fun, and even legal, hassle-free cigarette smoking. Following the success of the Meat Bar restaurant in Tel Aviv and the opening of a branch in Herzliya, the only thing missing was for this gang of carnivores to open up a bar as well. There's no doubt that they've got the most out of this tiny space adjacent to the restaurant on Chen Boulevard, with its high ceilings and long bar, interesting design and lighting, and shared menu.
The vibe: Carnal lust
Who's who: Morally corrupted friends or a hot date with a non-vegetarian
Sex appeal: The girl next door
Prices: 1/3 liter beers on tap: Stella – NIS 26, La Chouffe – NIS 32; Guinness NIS 25. Chasers: arak – NIS 16; vodka – NIS 21, whiskey –NIS 21
Food: Beef carpaccio – NIS 52
Recommendation: Arrive early – after 8 P.M. there isn't any room left at the bar.
Meat Bar Next Door, 52 Chen Boulevard, Tel Aviv, Sun-Thur 6 P.M. – 1 A.M. 18.00-01.00; Fri 1 P.M. – 1 A.M.; Sat 6 P.M. – 1 A.M.
For the music: Foster
This bar doesn't really care if you get to know it or not, or to be more precise, its regulars don't care. In the six years it's been open the place has gained a crowd of faithful followers that may not be too happy to lose their spot at the bar. But we think the public has the right to know about this place anyway. Foster is an intimate, pleasant place that has a big, comfy bar, sociable seating areas, a TV screen for important sporting events (e.g. Champions League football), prize-winning bartenders, contemporary cocktails, and most important, the most refreshing music town. Thanks to the young, unpretentious DJs who don't insist on playing a particular musical style, you'll be able to hear rare rock and roll, electronica, funk, Balkan beats and the latest hits all in the same evening. Don’t be surprised if you find yourselves stuck there until the wee hours, talking trash with the bartenders, the neighborhood drinkers or even with yourself, as the music playing in the background glues you to your seat.
The vibe: Enjoy it now, because tomorrow you won't remember
Who's who: Those who prefer an alternative to north Tel Aviv
Sex appeal: Small sins
Prices: Beers on tap: Tuborg – NIS 24; Guinness – NIS 26. Chasers: arak – NIS 11; vodka/whiskey – NIS 12 (when bought with a beer)
Food: A roll with feta cheese, tahini and cherry tomatoes with olive oil and hyssop – NIS 32, or NIS 16 for half a portion
Recommendation: Sunday refills on beer for NIS 15
Foster, 38 Shlomo Hamelech, Sun-Sat 9 P.M. until the last customer staggers away
Those that need to know, know: Edward
Bars that decide to forgo the formality of having a sign outside their door always manage to intrigue – maybe it's the mystery, maybe it's the assumption that those who need to know, know, or maybe it's just because we like things that are hard to get. Either way, that cool nonchalance is inside as well where you'll find a balcony with a sea view, a cozy bar, good playlist, and cheerful staff.
The vibe: Take a break from downtown Tel Aviv
Who's who: Friends, and friends of friends
Sex appeal: Hot date
Prices: Beer on tap:Becks and Bass – NIS 23/27. Chasers: arak – NIS 13; vodka – NIS 16; whiskey – NIS 18.
Food: Fish and fresh produce from the market each day. Shrimps and tomatoes in white wine sauce – NIS 35; mussels – NIS 42.
Recommendation: Dance on the tables at their Friday afternoon parties.
Edward, 12 Carmel St., Sun-Thur 5 P.M. until last customer, Fri-Sat 12.00-last customer
Heart and soul: Geula
Micky and Carol have been on the scene for years. This inspirational couple had their eye on this place when it was just an affable but sleepy bar. Then they worked their magic and opened Geula two years ago, running it themselves at the beginning, bringing in guest DJs nearly every night (including Ram Orion, Aviv Mark, Michal Levit and more). They also set up outdoor seating, launched the happiest happy hour in the city, organize fashion sales and pre-Shabbat dinners on Friday afternoons, and recently opened the adjacent Geula Mini Bar for the overflow customers. There's homemade food, posters on the walls, great music and a lot of heart and soul here – exactly how it's supposed to be.
The vibe: Old school Tel Aviv
Who's who: Modern hippies
Sex appeal: Free love
Prices: Beers on tap: Goldstar – 21/25; Maccabi – NIS 19/23; Estrella – NIS 25/29; Abir –NIS 26/29. Chasers: arak – NIS 14; vodka – NIS 17; whiskey – NIS 19.
Food: Schnitzel with mash and salad – NIS 40; spinach patties – NIS 28.
Recommendation: Happy hour every day from 4 P.M. – deals on beers, wine and basic spirits, snacks for NIS 10 (eggplant, okra, vegetables, feta, and more).
Geula, 51 Geula St. Open Sun-Fri from 4 P.M. until the last customer leaves. Closed on Saturdays.
Meeting in the marketplace: Ya'acov's place
In the Levinsky market you can find several down to earth establishments open in the afternoon offering beer on tap, a basic selection of drinks, and pretzels and dip on the house. Go to Yaakov's place for a warm welcome, gossip, and stories of market exploits from an assortment of the best cast of characters the place has assembled over the years.
The vibe: Warm people, cold beer
Who's who: Locals and eccentric Jerusalemites
Sex appeal: Daddy complex
Prices: Goldstar, Heiniken and Staropramen on tap – NIS 17/22; Chasers – NIS 10.
Food: Pickled herring fillet and vegetables – NIS 25
Recommendation: Friday afternoons – it gets messy.
Ya'acov's place, 42 Matalon St., Tel Aviv, 12 P.M. until nightfall.