With a host of friends and tourists claiming it’s too expensive to eat out in Tel Aviv, I have set out on an eating challenge to prove them wrong. I truly believe it is possible to grab a belly full of local cuisine without spending a fortune–and without entering a supermarket. Undoubtedly, Israeli wining and dining in Tel Aviv can be hard on the pocket, but thankfully there is a sliding scale of places to eat. I chose a monetary figure that is cheap without being unachievable, enough to eat a light lunch on the go without feeling bloated. My stomach and I debated, argued and finally agreed on 10 shekels (2.6 USD/ 2.4 EUR/ 1.7 GBP). I set off from the Sea Executive Suites Hotel in true thrifty fashion, by foot, on the hunt for food that is cheap, tasty and filling. I gave myself a few ground rules:
Ground Rules for Frugal Food Champions Rule 1 No drinks out. Grab a bottle of tap water from home or ask for tap water at a restaurant. Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are unbelievably expensive in Israel. Rule 2 Forgo sit-down restaurants. Culinary delights that you grab at a stand or in the back of a shop are invariably as tasty and as filling as those in fancier environments without the additional cost of your seat. Rule 3 Forget the beach. In Israel, the price increases with the view – expect to pay between 50-200% more for eating on the beach, looking out at the waves, thinking about how you just paid $8 for a cappuccino. Rule 4 Stock up on salads! Most cheap eateries will be serving Middle Eastern foods, which come with a variety of FREE salads for paying customers. Serve yourself big and grab your own serviettes. Rule 5 When in Rome, do as the Israelis do! Eat your big meal at lunch time. This is significantly cheaper than eating out at breakfast or dinner. All this chat about food and I’m starving already. After walking around tirelessly eating for next to nothing, I have compiled a short list of 4 Tel Aviv eateries where the food is highly edible, costs 10 shekels or less, and you can leave without a serious concern of accidental poisoning.
Enjoy and add your own! 4 places to eat for under 10 shekels: Cofix, Dizengoff St , 91, Tel Aviv-Yafo 13 minutes by foot from Sea Executive Suites With over 50 branches in Israel, Cofix has become quite the phenomenon. It’s at the top of my list as you can buy a drink and select a sizeable sandwich for just 10 shekels. In addition, there are tables and chairs available to sit down outside. For those of us who may find menus in Hebrew complex or difficult, and the prices hard to read, there is nothing to worry about in Cofix. Pretty much everything is in plain sight and everything is 5 shekels, from carrot juice to coffee, sandwiches, croissants, cake, soup – the price is FIXED at five shekels each. Cofix is literally perfect for a lunch on the go with a decent variety of highly edible food. Open 07:00-23:00 Sunday – Thursday, Friday until 2 hours before the Sabbath.
Falafel Dror, Nachalat Binyamin 48, Tel Aviv-Yafo 20 minutes by foot from Sea Executive Suites. There are two options at Falafel Dror, falafel in a pita or Falafel not in a pita. This may seem confusing to some but for most of us it’s pretty straightforward. Pick up a falafel for 7 shekels with pita, and for the carb conscious amongst us, lose the pita and pay only 5 shekels. There are soft drinks for 5 shekels and plastic cups of “juice” for three, matching Cofix on price but not on variety, though you can stuff yourself on the basic salads, tehina and pickles. Falafel Dror is a huge “thumbs up” for taste, although a little on the greasy side. If you are looking for a great quick lunchtime bite of Israel’s most traditional fast food, this is it. Open 10.00-19.00
Rothschild 140; Dizengoff 267, Tel Aviv-Yafo 33 minute by foot from Sea Executive Suites I love the pizza from Tony Vespa. Firstly because it is pizza, secondly because it’s on Rothschild, and thirdly because they are pretty much always open when you want a slice. Drunk or sober, the mouthwatering varieties of vegetarian, meat and extra cheesy pizzas are cheap and flavorsome, and the options will guarantee that you come back for a second round in about an hour. The Pizza here is sold by weight and works out at 88 shekel a kilo, so you only get one slice for ten shekels. At this price, Tony Vespa can’t be considered filling, but it’s triumphant on both taste and location, as you can have your pizza standing on a balcony overlooking one of the more fashionable boulevards in Tel Aviv. Open Sunday-Wednesday 12:00-03:00, Thursday-Friday 12:00-04:00, Saturday 12:00-03:00 Food is not Kosher Hummus Magen
David 11 Shuk HaCarmel street , Tel Aviv-Yafo 14 minutes by foot from Sea Executive Suites. Hummus Magen David is a self-service restaurant where you can get smooth and creamy hummus with toppings (which will add to the price). They have a unique, politically incorrect décor imitating a Jewish house of worship complete with Judaica, Jewish psalm books and synagogue prayer benches. There is a rumor that it used to be a synagogue although I have found no hard evidence to suggest this to be the case. This is true Israeli hummus sold in a true Israeli fashion; it’s in your face and if you don’t specify loudly what you want – they will do it their own way. Israeli hummus is nothing like the Greek variety and, like the design of this restaurant, it is worshipped in Israel. The quality of the food is great and, though slightly over budget (12 shekels for a plate of hummus), it’s definitely a significant addition to this list. This is the cheapest place to get great hummus in Tel Aviv. Sunday – Thursday 08:00 – 16:00, Friday 08:00 – 15:00 Not sure if it’s kosher Additional tip: Ask around on the Facebook Group called ‘Secret Tel Aviv’ about where to go for other inexpensive ethnic eats when you are in town, there are many helpful foodies there.