Let's say you see a group of tourists sitting down for a meal in an obvious tourist trap. They happily peruse the menu and chat with the waiter, certain that a pleasant meal is in store for them. But you know better. Aren't you just a little bit embarrassed? Don't you feel the urge to come up to them and suggest another place, "Right here, around the corner, good prices, great food..." I often feel that way, but never have the courage to actually act upon it.
So here, I would like to make a modest contribution toward your next trip to Tel Aviv, which, if you are a foodie, should be prominently featured on your Israeli itinerary.
1. Stay away from Kikar Atarim - this concrete atrocity is situated right in the middle of the hotel strip of Hayarkon Street, blocking the access to the beach. Built in the late 70s as an exclusive shopping complex, it now houses seedy arcades and touristy restaurants of the worst kind. In one word: no!
2. Be wary of any place that has a waiter at the entrance beckoning the customers to come inside, especially if it is situated near the waterfront.
3. Don't eat anything but breakfast in your hotel. With very few exceptions, hotel food is overpriced and uninspired.
4. Look out for "business lunches," local name for prix-fixe lunch menus. This is your chance to have a spectacular and relatively inexpensive meal at some of the most prestigious places in the city, such as Katit, Raphael or Herbert Samuel.
5. Treat yourself to a Friday brunch. Even though you probably can have one at your hotel, this has become a local institution, with many restaurants serving decadent brunches for more than reasonable prices. Try Carmella Bistro, Comme il Faut, Manta Ray or Dallal. Book ahead!
6. Check out the markets. Carmel and Lewinsky are the most interesting ones. The latter, a maze of commercial streets in downtown Tel Aviv, is a great place for foodie presents such as rare spices and condiments.
7. Spend some time in the Jaffa flea market. Recently renovated, it is quite charming and worth the visit not only because of the vintage and antique stores but because of the restaurants situated in an around it. Yoezer, Pua, Charcouterie and Margaret Tayar are the most interesting ones.
8. Don't shy away from the street food; if the place looks clean and the line is long, you can't go wrong. Besides the ubiquitous falafel you should try sabich (fried eggplant and boiled eggs combo with a spicy condiment), shawarma, bourekas and a Tunisian sandwich.
9. Don't miss the cafes. They are everywhere, and the coffee is usually great. Pastries are good too. Most cafes serve breakfast and light lunches. Among my favorites are La Central, Orna and Ella, Tazza D'Oro. The best café chain is Arcafe.