If you are a foodie you will be surprised (and amazed!) by how the Israeli culinary scene has evolved in recent years. Chefs are now celebrities, making the competition and level of expectation an all time high. This list reflects our humble opinion of the best restaurants in Israel that create a local, authentic gastronomic experience. Yes, there are some really good Italian restaurants and sushi bars in Tel-Aviv for instance, but this list aims to provide you with a list of recommendations of a genuinely local and unique dining experience.
Prepare your forks and knives!.
(Latest update: April 2020)
Yudale bar, Jerusalem
The top of the list is reserved for a humble sized tapas-style restaurant opposite its more famous sibling – Machneyudah. Although both cater with similar high quality fresh ingrediants , Yudale is fresh, casual and funky. Loud eclectic music perfectly compliments the selection of alcohol served; alongside a modern fusion cuisine, a brilliant combination of local and international flavors. Yudale is the ultimate place for a festive meal to celebrate your vacation in Israel, that is if you can find a seat!
Named after the Mahane Yehudah market near it, Machneyudah was founded in 2009 by three critically acclaimed chefs (Assaf Granit, Uri Navon and Yossi Elad). They did this with an ambitious desire to redefine high end dining experiences in Israel. And what a success! It’s kitchen combines, like magic, local dishes with various international influences that teases your culinary senses at every plate (try their truffled polenta!). The vintage décor, open kitchen, great music and super friendly staff makes many consider Machneyudah as the best dining experience in Israel. But don’t even think of showing up without a reservation.
Uri Buri, Akko
Probably the best seafood restaurant in Israel, Uri Buri is located in the old city of Akko, close to the sea front and the 800 year old Templars tunnel. The owner, famous Israeli chef, Uri Jeremias, is a very social and likable person. Sometimes he will personally serve you his beautifully presented and amazingly tasty dishes.
With oysters, octopus, raw shrimp and crab meat on the menu, Uri Buri is obviously not kosher, but that means he is also open on the weekends.
Diana is situated in the main street of Nazareth, about half a mile from Church of Annunciation. While master chef Duhul Safid chops the meat for his famous Kebabs behind a big glass window, you will be served a set of about 20 small dishes of fresh salads and starters. This is probably the best selection of Arab Galilean “tapas” you can get in Israel that can easily be a meal by itself. And when you think you can’t handle any more food – the main course arrives. The best Kebabs in Israel. Period. The word definitely becomes flesh here. 😉
And when you think that’s it, the pure joy of Knafeh shows up for dessert, with a small Arab coffee. Wow.
Hasalon (Hebrew for “The Living Room”), operates only two nights a week in an industrial area in Tel-Aviv. Led by celebrity chef Eyal Shani, Hasalon perfectly reflects his special personality – sophisticated, contemporary, diverse – and obsessed with tomatoes. With a menu that changes daily, ingredients of the highest quality, endless alcohol, joyful staff and loud music, dining here feels more like a private event. In fact, don’t be surprised if you end the evening dancing on the table, with the staff. Hasalon is a gastronomical adventure you will not forget, just don’t forget to reserve it long in advance.
Dallal, Neve Tsedek
A great and romantic hideaway set on the corner of the Suzanne Dellal Cultural center in Neve Tzedek. With its soft and charming design Dallal has a quiet and relaxed vibe, and a kitchen that provides classic dishes of meat, fish and fresh pastas with a delicious gourmet twist.
The Dallal bakery next door is a delicious option for some to-go treats as well.
Mashya, although located in the lobby of Mendelli hotel in Tel-Aviv, is not just another hotel restaurant. Its clever and clean design compliments the sophisticated kitchen led by chef Moti Shitrit. He wonderfully combines local and specific Moroccan dishes with modern cooking techniques. The starters are especially creative and served in specially designed ceramics. Mashya is a modern, hip and stylish establishment that generates a feast for all your senses.
Habasta (Hebrew for “the vendor stand”) is a small place right next to the Carmel Market that can be a great lunch break during the day. However, we recommend it more for dinner. The menu changes daily and is scribbled on the main wall by master chef Elon Amir. The young crowds filling the tables outside always rejoice on the incredible wine list and dishes, like Baguette topped with mussels, pork shawarma, and the brilliant “White Pizza.”
Magdalena, Sea of Galilee
Don’t let the humble entry next to a shopping center discourage you, as Magdalena is possibly the best Arab gourmet restaurant in Israel! It’s name derives from the nearby ruins of Magdala, hometown of Mary Magdalene. The views of the Sea of Galilee from the elegant hall of the restaurant make it a perfect stop for lunch, or dinner, while touring the north of Israel. Using local and fresh ingredients, Christian-Arab owner and Chef Yussef “Zuzu” Hana fuses the Galilean, Lebanese and wider Mediterranean kitchen into an innovative menu of delightful flavors. Magdalena certainly reflects the recent trend of upscale Arabic restaurants. Don’t miss Shisbarak (lamb and pine Stuffed dumplings), the fried cauliflower, black seafood rissoto, semolina cigars and Malabi for dessert.
Perfectly placed right above the sunken harbor of ancient Caesarea, Hellena is an ideal option when touring the antiquities of the Roman era Metropolis. Co-owned by the talented chef Amos Sion and his partner Uri Jeremias, the restaurant offers a wide selection of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. They nicely represent the modern Israeli kitchen, with Italian and Greek influences. With the enchanting views of the sea, the personable service, and the great wine selection, Hellena generates an exceptional and unforgettable culinary experience.