Ecotourism: Tel Aviv

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Go beyond falafel and hummus, indulge in the bustling conscious culture of Tel Aviv.

Before arriving to Tel Aviv, all my research concerning eating vegan or vegetarian pointed to one conclusion: falafel and hummus. Tel Aviv isn’t particularly known for its cuisine and has adopted its culinary creations from the Mediterranean coast and Arab neighbors. I figured if what I ordered wasn’t something involving fried chickpeas or tahini then the only other option would be lamb. When I arrived, however, I was impressed to see that there indeed existed a growing buzz for plant-based eating and an enthusiastic culture to support it. Yes, there was a lot of falafel and hummus involved, mostly because Israelis do a fantastic job at them, but there were also so many other opportunities to enjoy the local culture in a sustainable and healthy way.

The star of Tel Aviv’s health food joints is decidedly the Taste of Life, located on Ben Zehuda Street. Since 1984, the restaurant has gone beyond kosher laws and has successfully worked under a vegan, organic and raw banner. Dishes are made in-house and include tofu quiches, mock-meat, veggie burgers, tofu teriyaki, Schwarma, stir fry, grains, vegetable casseroles, soy ice-cream as well as a selection of salads and juices. The restaurant also hosts cooking classes and offers catering services.

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Start the day out with a hearty Israeli breakfast that will satisfy both the vegan and non-vegan palette. Orna & Ella is a well-established fixture that has become a symbol of Tel Aviv and Shenkin Street. Starting off as a coffee shop 14 years ago, today Orna & Ella feeds diners on a balcony in the back and three small separate rooms and is famous for its yam patties, which are served with a creamy chives dip. In addition to its meat pie and chicken liver dishes, there are salads, homemade pastas and morning pastries. Get the best of both worlds and indulge in a truly Tel Aviv experience at this humble local mainstay.

On Yehuda Halevi Street you’ll find a health enthusiast’s true oasis. Aba Gil is a vegan, organic, low-fat, gluten and soy-free restaurant. The menu is stocked with typical dishes characteristic to the city’s tastes, such as hummus and falafel, in addition to others with stand-outs such as sweet potato, beans, quinoa, brown rice, vegetables, sprouts, and beets.

If you are in the mood for a burger, but want to keep things light, go to Buddha Burgers on Ibn Gavirol for a vegan, and Israeli, take on an American classic. The restaurant preps all the burgers itself and also serves vegan milkshakes to complete the experience. In a show of its good nature, Buddha Burgers offers animal rights activists a special discount.

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Venture to southern Tel Aviv for a Southeast Asian experience. Indian restaurant 24 Rupee is nestled between unlikely neighbors – warehouses and motorbike shops – but is itself a charming, authentic Indian food restaurant with colorful walls and a cozy atmosphere that is introduced at first step, when patrons are asked to remove their shoes. Indian music complements the meal and during the summer, the rooftop is open for diners to enjoy their food in fresh air. As another reprieve from Israeli cuisine, try your hand at chopstick skills at Onami on HaArba. While the restaurant is not exclusively vegan or vegetarian, like any Japanese sushi restaurant, there are plenty of vegan options, such as stir-fried tofu and green vegetables. Let the server know your vegetarian or vegan preferences before ordering-

If moving to Tel Aviv or planning on a longer visit, it may interest you to join the Bar-Kayma, a cooperative vegan restaurant and bar that doubles as a community center. Owned by its customers and employees, Bar-Kayma offers members wholesale prices on its products and services, allows members to take part in all community decisions, provides lectures, performances and movies every evening, and serves fresh vegan food. It costs 1,000 Shekels, or just under $275, to join. For non-members, the cooperative is still open and the food and drinks are still competitively low.

Photo Credit: Aylin Erman

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