As promised, my second account of the local vegan scene in Tel Aviv. As mentioned on my first post about Vegan Tel Aviv, the vegan lifestyle is currently strong in Israel; lots of new places, tastes and options combined together with the Israeli kitchen that result in a true heavenly vegan and vegan friendly eating scene!
I would like to start with a new vegan restaurant that runs by the Zakaim family. They opened a hipster looking place in south Tel Aviv, one of those places where no chair is like the other with an emphasis on vintage, second-hand and recycling. The title of the place is “an original vegan boutique” and it offers unique vegan food – fresh and local. We had the string beans in a lovely aromatic olive oil and nuts dressing that we cleaned from the plate with hearty bread:
We had the hand torn (?) french fries which was REALLY good with a homemade ketchup.
We also tried the spinach potatoes burekas (was standard) with side of pickled lemon salad that I didn’t like and finally we had the baked/burnt eggplant that was too burnt for one of us and too spicy for the other – but overall an interesting dish, served with whole tomatoes (including the stems that I had to dig out) and a splendid tahini. For dessert we took the chocolate nuts roses – a perfect delicious ending! I really wanted to go back to Zakaim and try other things but alas, time was short.
Bottom line: will definitely go back there next time because the fries were out of this world!
Zakaim / Simtat Beit Ha’Shoeva 80 / Tel Aviv
Prices: 200 Shekels for two people including 10%-15% tip (not cheap in Israeli standards) / 42.5 EUR / 56 USD
I had a lovely vegan breakfast at Café Louise – breakfast is one of those things I learned not wait for when eating outside, knowing it will end with basic vegetables and maybe bread. But Café Louise offers a full vegan breakfast and I was more than happy to go there with one of my university friends whom I haven’t seen for some time.
Service was friendly and welcoming which was much appreciated in the early morning (OK, it was noon but hey, I was on vacation). I ordered the single vegan breakfast (63 Shekels/ 14 EUR /18 USD) and received food for at least 3 people! I had a large cappuccino with soy milk and freshly squeezed orange juice both inclusive in the price of the breakfast. There were two baked sweet potatoes fritters, a five colors salad, basket with different breads and a large variety of spreads: garlic, dry tomatoes and kalamta olives, tofu, tahini with sea weed and silan (rub syrup, made from dates), olive tapenade, beans cream, beets cubes with nuts, homemade jam and for dessert a tiny portion of lovely tapioca pudding. Everything was tasty, fresh and colorful!
Bottom line: a refreshing option for vegans, Café Louise has branches in 6 locations and with such reasonable price, professional service and nice atmosphere there’s no wonder the place is popular!
Café Louise / Harugei Ha’malchut 11 / Tel Aviv
And now to two Sabich places that I visited; both are considered the top Sabich places in Israel (Sabich post here):
Sabich Ovad in Givatyim is an institute with an owner who entertains the clients – maybe the most known Sabich in the center of Israel. It’s cheap and fresh and was REALLY delicious but the lack of cleanliness at the eating area kind of killed it for me.
Sabich Oved / Sirkin 7 / Giv’atayim / 19 Shekels per serving / 4 EUR / 5.3 USD
Sabich Frishmann had a long line of people waiting, located on one of Tel Aviv’s most known streets – I made the order for 3 people, by the time mine was ready the other two finished theirs and looked at me, jokingly, asking what about their Sabich. It was really good!
Sabich Frishman / Frishman 42 / Tel Aviv / 18 Shekels per serving / 3.8 EUR / 5 USD
The last place I want to recommend is not in Tel Aviv but in the old city of Acre (Akko); an hour and half on the train from Tel Aviv. Acre has a fascinating history and is one of the few cities in Israel with Arab-Israeli coexistence. The old city is right on the sea, and if you love history (especially crusaders history) then places with names like The Hospitaller Fortress, The Templars Tunnel and Al Basha Turkish Bath will put a spell on you.
We went there early morning, rushing our way to what people claim to be “the best Hummus north of Tel Aviv”. We heard there will be lines of people waiting outside the place and that if we arrive after 14:00 we can forget about eating, all will be sold by then. Arriving at 10:30, the friendly employees at Hummus Said set us with a table right by the air condition (mind you, summers in Israel are hot and humid!). We ordered 5 servings of hummus: 4 with Ful (fave beans) and one hummus msabbaha in which most of the chickpeas stay whole – really special! Our order was served quickly with fresh-baked pitas, pickles and excellent olives, olive oil and tomatoes and some spicy pastes. Our waiter was funny and professional and very kind. We were so happy and satisfied with the food and service that we jokingly decided on going back there for lunch, but let me tell you, when you start your day with hummus, you do not eat till dinner!
Hummus Said / Old City of Acre
Prices: including drinks we paid a total of 105 Shekels / 23 EUR / 30 USD– cheap cheap cheap!
A bit more of Acre:
The worst meal award on this trip goes to Thai House. There is a buzz on the place and a few friends said that it’s the best Thai food in Tel Aviv. Judging by the difficulty to get a table, our expectations were high as a kite.
But as they say, the higher the expectations…
First, the so-called vegan menu is dull and very strict – cannot do that or that or that or change or add – the Thai takeout spot in my neighborhood is more flexible than this place!
Second, my dish was boring, no more no less. The Thai kitchen is so colorful and full with flavors and somehow I managed to get the dullest dish on the menu?! And it is not like I chose something special and new: coconut milk and sweet potatoes curry with rice. The menu promised roots paste, lime and basil – in reality I could barely feel any of the flavors.
Third, I wouldn’t be so disappointed about the food if the service would have been good, because after all we were there for the company and good time. But no. We got a waiter who did us a favor for being there. He was unkind, arrogant and not helpful at all (let’s just say one of us was actually afraid of asking him for something). As someone who waited tables most of her (sad but true, academic) life, in places like Eilat, Tel Aviv and New York City – take my word for it, I know the job, very well – this guy didn’t.
Forth and last point – the place was pricey – and not for a reason.
Bottom line: maybe my standards regarding Thai food and service are high but the Thai House was a great disappointment and no, they will never see me there again.
Thai House / Bograshov 8 / Tel Aviv
Prices 100 Shekels per person including 10%-15% tip / 21 EUR /28 USD
I spent the rest of the vacation in my hometown of Eilat. Sadly, the vegan world did not arrive there yet. Eilat is a sleepy tourist city at the end of Israel, kissing the desert and the Red Sea, between Sinai (Egypt) and Jordan. We say that everything comes to Eilat a few years later, because it is far and it takes time… There are no vegan restaurants in Eilat but it is completely fine, there’s a good Falafel and you can eat watermelon for dinner, and besides, you don’t eat much when all you do is snorkeling, swimming and laying on the beach in more than 40 degrees!