Walking down the bustling Allenby Street is perhaps the last place travelers would expect to find a gourmet market and the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary core. Believe it or not, the seemingly derelict Levinsky Market is the foundation of Tel Aviv’s gourmet food culture and one of the city’s most dynamic and gentrifying neighborhoods. Located on the aptly named Levinsky Street and adjacent side streets, Levinsky Market was founded by Greek and Turkish immigrants to Palestine in the late 1920’s. In the early days, Levinsky Street existed a ragtag culinary black market, where purveyors would travel to Europe and return with a rare type of cheese from Normandy or exotic spices from the south of Spain, auctioning items to local shop owners until the products ran out.
Today, Levinsky Market remains a zeitgeist of the original Tel Aviv, where traces of times past can still be discovered, consumed and digested in the form of delectable, authentic food dishes. The Levinsky market can be described as the introverted sister of the bountiful Carmel Market, where clandestine specialty shops boasting imported goods and traditional Turkish, Greek and Persian dishes are dotted along the narrow streets.
Below is a selection of our top choices for eating in Levinsky Market, whether by day or night.
Yom Tov Deli: A must-visit for gourmets in Tel Aviv is Yom Tov Deli, a compact eatery established in 1969 by immigrants from Istanbul and run by third-generation owners Yomi and Eitan Levi. Yom Tov Deli offers a slew of well-preserved family recipes, including homemade Turkish grape leaves stuffed with rice; garlic confit; several types of eggplant salads and rare olives imported from Syria, Turkey and Greece. 43 Levinsky Street.
Hahalutizym 3: Israeli-rustic gourmet restaurant located within the Levinsky Market and the first of its kind in the neighborhood. Young Chef Eytan Vanunu cooks up eclectic dishes in his intimate and understated restaurant, included Honey Pork-stuffed Challah; Polenta with Veal and Red Wine Reduction; and Lentil Salad with Yogurt Chive Dressing, as well as house-cured sardines, Octopus Bruschetta and beyond. 3 Halutziym Street
Dalida: Lively elegantly-designed Eastern European-inspired resto-bar with a private backyard herb garden in the heart of Levinsky Market. 7 Zvuloon Street, www.facebook.com/DalidaTLV
Cafe Levinsky (Levinsky 41): Stop by Levinsky 41 cafe for an organic take off the popular Israeli beverage gazoz. Spark up a conversation with the affable Benny Briga, a former chef, as he prepares homemade organic fruit syrups made from peach, strawberry, roses, almond and apricots, that when combined with soda, offers a subtly sweet, refreshing beverage. 41 Levinsky Street
Ouzeria: Greco-Mediterranean inspired resto-bar offering an extensive list of of ouzo, sambouca and Israeli arak liquors delightful to the pallets of neighborhood hipsters. 44 Matalon Street
Zvuloon 10: Home-style small plates restaurant with eclectic decor on within the Levinsky Market’s slowly gentrifying Zvuloon Street. 10 Zvuloon Street.
Cover photo: Noam Chen, Israeli Ministry of Tourism