Introducing the one little corner of Tel Aviv that serves to remind us of the good old days Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you – Shuk HaCarmel! This old-fashioned and typically Middle Eastern market is one of the most inescapable places in Tel Aviv and you always seem to end up there one way or another – even if you don’t need to actually buy anything! So, take a deep breath, hold onto your bags and let’s step in…
There is absolutely nothing that you cannot find in this market items like clothes, belts, T-shirts, underwear, costume jewelry, shoes, and sandals. Fresh fruit and vegetable stands that have made this shuk famous. There are several coffee houses and restaurants dotting both the inside border of the shuk and the many side streets leading off the main hub. It’s guaranteed that after this little visit, you will truly feel as though you’ve had a genuine Israeli experience.
Rockin’ in Shuk HaCarmel
It’s no secret that the freshest fruits and vegetables can be had for a song at this bustling market, but what you might not know is how it’s morphed into a true culinary gem. This ain’t your savta’s shuk. Today HaCarmel Market is dotted with a variety of unique eateries, cafes, and watering holes. Bordered by funky Nachalat Binyamin Street to the left and the Yemenite Quarter to the right, you could wander these streets for days and never hit the same place twice. From vegan to kebab and everything in between- the Israeli experience has never been so varied. It’s recommended that you spend some serious time investigating the little nooks and crannies that give this area its special vibe, but to help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites. These are the special places where you’re greeted with a smile and immediately feel at home. Tell them Go Tel Aviv sent you!
Hamitbachon (the kitchenette)
Near the main entrance to Shuk HaCarmel, and just off Carmel Street is some seriously good Israeli home-cooking. Rustic and comfortable with a roomy covered wooden porch for outdoor seating and a spacious, air-conditioned interior, this family-friendly kitchen offers a wide variety of Israeli comfort food including mousaka (eggplant & beef), mujadara (lentils & rice), green tehina, meatballs, lots of salads, chopped liver, tabouli, and shakshuka. There are plenty of vegetarian/vegan options including a delectable eggplant shakshuka. Bring the gang and enjoy Middle Eastern food at its best. 18 Rabbi Akiva St. 03-5163689
Bar Ochel scores top honors for the feel-good hotspot in the shuk. The staff is upbeat, friendly, and fun- and they make it a top priority that you have a good time and enjoy a great meal. Designed in the shape of a square with bar seating facing the cooking area, you’re offered a variety of grilled goodies such as meatballs, kebabs, spicy sausage, chicken, and vegetables- all of which can be ordered by pita, giabetta, or plate. Shakshuka and salads round out the menu. The food is fresh and delicious and served in a lively atmosphere of music and laughter. Order the kebabs drenched in tehina and spicy harif sauce; you won’t be disappointed.
38 HaCarmel St.
If you’re looking for a little something to quench your thirst, you’ve come to the right place. In a green kiosk at the Rambam Street entrance to HaCarmel Market, is a watering hole with 85-90 different types of Israeli beer. Supplied by 25+ Israeli breweries, there is something to please every beer lover, including two beers on-tap. Tell the friendly and well-informed staff which label/type of international brand you prefer and they will quickly serve up the Israeli equivalent. Order your beer with a hotdog or some tapas, or buy food elsewhere in the shuk and enjoy it here. Alcoholic cider is also available, along with a selection of white wine, whiskey, vodka, and arak. This is another lively spot with a focus on great customer service. Check out their Facebook page and coordinate your visit with one of their Friday afternoon DJ sessions. 1 Rambam Street 054-494-1121
Humus Magen David
Just inside the Rambam entrance to Shuk HaCarmel, is an old synagogue with whitewashed façade and bright blue windows. No longer used for prayer services, this eclectic locale now houses offers up tasty (and cheap) humus. How cheap? Cheap like ten shekels for a plate of humus/tehina and two pitas. How tasty? Tasty like your plate will soon be empty. Other add-ons include hard-boiled egg and ful. Stop in for the best bargain lunch in town. 11 Shuk HaCarmel St. 03-5182844
If you’re looking for something a little more refined, take the short walk over to HaKovshim, a bistro on the outskirts of the shuk and a couple blocks from the sea. This charming bistro has a provincial country vibe and feels like a neighborhood favorite, serving up delightfully offbeat fare such as sweet waffle with corned beef and a poached egg, Gravlax and burghul, salmon and poached egg sandwich, workman’s meatballs, and homemade gnocchi. Those with diet restrictions will be happy to note that many menu items are designated as Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten Free. HaKovshim is a great choice for a tasty, relaxed meal with friends.
48 HaKovshim (corner of Nechemya St.) 03-5108555
A recent addition to the myriad of tasty eateries in the Yemenite Quarter, Aziza comes with a twist. For lunch, the menu is a haven for lovers of home-cooked comfort food, but evening ushers in a decidedly more upscale and gourmet dinner menu. It’s like two restaurants in one, so let your mood decide… 4 Malan St. 03-5057531
For a traditional old-school taste of Yemen, snag an outdoor table at Erez in the heart of the Yemenite quarter and sit down to some of the best meat soup in town. Similar to what is known as beef stew in the US, meat soup is slow-cooked meat and potatoes in a special spice mixture known as “hawayej”. Order it with saloof, a yemeni bread, and hilbeh- a thick pale green dipping sauce. Simple, yes; heavenly, without a doubt. 24 Nachliel St. 03-5102555
Beit Ha’amudim (house of columns)
Although open for lunch, nighttime is when this place really gets going and if you’re a jazz lover- this is a “don’t miss”. Distinguished by tall white pillars at the entrance, Beit Ha’amudim is a well-known venue for the best jazz musicians in the country and live music can be heard nearly every night of the week. Sit inside to concentrate on the music and sit outside if you still want to enjoy a conversation. The menu contains mostly vegetarian options, but there are a few chicken entrees for meat eaters. A variety of breakfasts are served all day and other menu items include stuffed peppers, vegan stew, toasts, and sandwiches. This is music paradise with romance built-in. Order a bottle of wine and some bruschetta with feta cheese, enjoy the sexy jazz, and just try to stop looking into each others’ eyes. 14 Rambam St. 03-5109228
Ready for a coffee break? There’s nothing better than fresh-roasted, and for a jolt of something really special head to Café Mea. The couple who opened this café lived in Costa Rica and decided to import that delicious, rich coffee experience to Tel Aviv. The beans are roasted on-site daily making for a rich aromatic experience that infuses the soul. Add a morsel or two of their fine boutique chocolate or a sweet pastry, and just wait for the buzz to kick in. 2 Shefer St. 03-510-2266
Wine in The Shuk
The first wine store to open in the Carmel Shuk, you’ll find great prices and a wine for every palette. Stocked with a small variety of International labels and a larger selection of Israel’s exceptional and award-winning vintages, you’ll also find Israeli boutique brews, beer-on-tap, and glasses of wine for 10nis. Wine tastings are held every Friday, and if you want to imbibe while soaking up some atmosphere- perch at the outdoor bar and watch the world go by. 1 Shefer St. 03-6440405