Alexis Rachel Domb is a restaurant review writer and social media coordinator for TasteTLV. TasteTLV is the ultimate culinary guide for dining in Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv becomes an increasingly global city, locals and travelers have
the opportunity to experience diverse dining options along the bustling
main streets. However, many of the most intriguing places exist in
more serene locations—tranquil alleyways, cobblestone passages, and
These unique hidden gems portray the
dining scene’s culinary richness, which some individuals may overlook if
they don't explore these secret treasures. In these quieter corners,
Mediterranean flavors mingle with international tastes, expressing both
tradition and innovation. Here, restaurateurs embrace the economic
principle of batch production in which quality rises as they serve a
As the influx of corporate chains continues, the
dining culture’s hidden gems hold even greater importance. They reveal
the desire to preserve the integrity of local culture, and they balance
out the potential repercussions of an overly corporate presence.
Uplifting and inspiring, these precious places deserve recognition for
the personalized touch they exude. Al Matbah
the crown jewel of this collection, Al Matbah encapsulates the very
definition of a hidden gem. Serving genuinely homemade Middle Eastern
food, this restaurant overflows with meaning, passion, and seasonal
dishes that inundate the palate with flavor. The beauty of Al Matbah
lies not only in the food; it also lies in the warmth of the
restaurant’s purpose. Five months ago, Layla and her husband, Hamoudi,
opened this place as a social project, allowing Arabic women to get out
of the house to earn money, engage in social life, and share their
traditional cooking. Being that Al Matbah is the Arabic term for
kitchen, this family-run venue feels more like a homey kitchen rather
than a restaurant. Playing classical Arabic music, Al Matbah emanates an
exotic yet comfortable vibe. The tapestries on the wall burst with
color as the aroma of cinnamon-simmered rice wafts through the air.
up a winding path past the Clock Tower, Al Matbah exists away from the
hectic city streets. The first time I encountered this place, they were
closing their rustic wooden doors at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. As a
telling sign, they had already run out of food for the day, which
unveils Al Matbah’s desirability and its focus on quality. With only
seven small tables, this place emphasizes the value of batch production.
The women make everything from scratch, from the warm,
za’atar-sprinkled bread to the flaky pastries served at the end with
tasting menu begins with a small teacup-style glass with red designs
and gold Arabic calligraphy. Inside each tiny glass, there is Arak mixed
with sweet fruit compote of figs and apricots. They also make and sell
their own olive oil, which they use in the cooking. One of their famous
dishes is maklouba—slow-cooked brown rice with sautéed vegetables
(carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant, and chickpeas), olive oil,
cinnamon, and nutmeg. Siniyeh koufta is another delicious dish,
comprised of lamb and beef meatballs, cooked with tahini and potatoes.
ornate, gold-framed mirror in the kitchen is angled precisely so guests
can watch these women cook. At the end of the meal, Layla comes to the
table with her glowing, friendly smile and delivers homemade pastries
made with phyllo dough and nuts. While the food explodes with flavor,
the meaningful story behind Al Matbah makes it even more alluring and
heartwarming.Yefet St. 28, Jaffa
Phone: (03) 081-895, 052-426-2473
Open Monday-Saturday noon till 5 p.m.; closed Sunday
Not kosherCoffee Lab
Lab peers out from behind the Carmel market's majestic tapestries
hanging from the ridged metal roofing. Tucked behind the fruit stands,
this mini-café captures the essence of specialty coffee. With imported
coffee beans from around the globe, Coffee Lab serves up one of the most
exotic cups of joe in the city. This nook within the shuk allows
café-goers an experience that differs from the daily grind of mainstream
Tel Aviv cafés. It serves a small crowd and gives attention to every
detail of the craft of coffee. Baristas here prepare steaming
Americanos, dainty espressos, and frothy lattes with utmost care and
Coffee Lab’s atmosphere demonstrates its
appreciation of coffee as both an art and a science. The coffee bar
features four tall stools that allow guests a place to watch the brewing
in action. Colossal stainless steel machinery contrasts with the
rainbow pop-art images of Marilyn Monroe on the walls. This place
reflects a vibe that is industrial yet comfortable. Here, dedication to
quality becomes apparent from the sheer amount of coffee-making
equipment. Guests can see all of the specialized tools for roasting
beans, steaming milk, and grinding coffee.
There is a homey
feeling here due to the cozy, plush, eggplant-colored seats at the four
two-top tables. Underneath each tabletop, there are several “coffee
table books,” magazines, and board games like checkers. Inviting guests
to stay a while, these aspects create a feeling of relaxation.
Furthermore, sounds of smooth jazz contribute to the calm mood here.
artifacts as interior décor, Coffee Lab features tattered coffee
satchels at the front door. These appear as though they have just
emerged from a cargo ship from South America, carrying beans ready for
roasting. Also, the walls are lined with tall, glass cylinders that
encase various types of coffee beans from diverse geographical regions.
Ultimately, this gem of java offers people a place to feel the comfort
of home while they stroll through the shuk. Coffee Lab captures Tel
Aviv’s lovely compromise between modern inventions and small-batch
intricacy and comfort.Corner of Ha’Carmel 21 and Rebi Meir 42 (inside the market)
Phone: (03) 510-4121
Open Sunday - Thursday 8 a.m. till 6 p.m.; Friday 8 a.m. till 4 p.m.; Saturday closed
Kosher (certificate is not Orthodox)Par Derriere
among locals as the “secret garden” wine bar, Par Derriere hides behind
a graffiti-decorated red door along King George Street. Many cafés and
restaurants along King George have a more conspicuous appearance with
patio seating spilling onto the sidewalk, yet this wine bar is set back
from the busy main road. After passing through the red door, guests come
upon an oasis of lush greenery, sparkling string lights, rustic wooden
tables, and glowing candles.
The atmosphere projects a romantic
aura, yet it still feels suitable for a lovely evening of catching up
with old friends as well. Communal tables, cozy couches, and intimate
two-tops offer people places to mingle while sipping fine wines from
around the world.
Par Derriere brings nature into the cityscape
with canopies of verdant plants. Unique items like ornate
Moroccan-style lamps and a Pac-Man screen built into one of the tables
make this place one of a kind.
guests wait for a spot, they may even perch their glass on a tall wine
cask made of aged French oak. In Par Derriere’s moonlit garden, visitors
can escape from the calamity of city life for an evening of
tranquility. However, this place can also act as a celebratory venue for
lively soirees as well.
Under Par Derriere’s enchanting
foliage, savor a glass of buttery Chardonnay from France while catching
up with an old friend, or sip some Australian Shiraz to calm nerves on a
first date. The simply prepared food at Par Derriere utilizes
high-quality ingredients. We recommend ordering a plate of European
cheeses or a simple bruschetta with fresh basil from the nearby shuk.
wine bar provides a dreamlike ambiance in which to delight in
world-class wines and to enjoy a conversation amidst the leaves and
lights. Par Derriere serves wine by the glass, bottle, and
500-millileter decanters. This garden bar offers wine from both small
boutique wineries and large-scale Israeli wineries as well. Slip behind
the red door for an extraordinary time in one of Tel Aviv’s most
mystical wine bars.King George Street 4 (Behind the red door)
Open daily from 7 p.m. till 2 a.m.
Not kosherMazal Arieh 5
the labyrinth of the ancient stone architecture in Jaffa, Mazal Arieh 5
is a café-bar overlooking the beautiful shoreline of the Mediterranean
Sea. Following a path of art galleries, visitors may stumble upon this
gem unexpectedly. The dreamlike atmosphere provides an ideal place to
sit outside and enjoy a coffee, light meal, or a drink.
the patio’s colossal stone arches, guests can appreciate the view of
the pink and indigo sky as the sun sinks into the horizon. In a city
more than 4000 years old, Mazal Arieh 5 breathes new life into a
historical place. Centuries ago, this building used to function as a
fish house in this port city, and in 2005, Shmuel Yehezekiel transformed
it into one of Israel’s most picturesque cafés.
Far from a
run-of-the-mill café, Mazal Arieh 5 has an intriguing character. At
night, the outdoor seating area twinkles from the glimmer of the string
lights as guests relax on comfortable patio furniture or at whimsical
tables in the open air. Furthermore, on Friday nights, this place turns
into a live music venue, featuring Brazilian-inspired samba music. The
owner’s passion for this variety of Latin American music is also evident
in the décor elements. Above the front entrance, there is a retro neon
light in the shape of an electric guitar, and behind the bar inside,
there is an extensive Brazilian CD and DVD collection.
In Hebrew, Mazal Arieh
refers to the Zodiac sign for the Leo, represented by the symbol of the
lion. As part of thr café-bar’s artwork, the imagery of this strong
animal gives the place a more regal sense. Connecting with the magic of
Jaffa, Mazal Arieh seems to be a natural extension of a visit to the
famous “Wishing Bridge.” As the sea breeze enhances each moment, Mazal
Arieh reminds individuals to take life slowly.Mazal Arieh 5, Jaffa
(03) 518-9226, 054-8088-909
Not kosherCafe Tamar
in 1941, Cafe Tamar represents an historical institution of Tel Aviv.
It symbolizes the city’s deeply rooted cafe culture and exposes the
city’s desire to cling its past. Reminiscent souls find a haven here
since it represents a microcosm of Israeli storytelling. A mere glance
at the wall decor offers guests an Israeli political history lesson.
Within the retro diner-style ambiance, the walls are speckled with
memorabilia like portraits of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin,
framed political cartoon drawings, and Hebrew bumper stickers. The
Israeli flag hangs proudly as part of the artful collage of images, and
photographs with tattered edges grace the walls as well.
unique charm of Cafe Tamar exudes the comfort of a friend’s cozy living
room. As guests chat over cappuccinos, the mismatching tables and
chairs reflect the place’s casual, relaxed nature. Offering classic
Israeli cafe dishes and drinks, Tamar does not offer a written menu,
which encourages greater social interaction and captures the place’s
personal touch. With items like bagel toast with melted cheese and
sliced tomato, the simplicity here adds a quaint vibe.
provides the canvas upon which guests may paint their own experience.
Framed articles from old newspapers hang behind the coffee counter.
Natural tree trunks even emerge from the floor tiles, giving the
atmosphere a indoor-outdoor feel.
This cafe fluidly melts into
the atmosphere of the Tel Aviv streets. Under the green-striped awning
outside, regulars sit at the patio tables outside while they read the
morning paper, delight in a cigarette, and savor an espresso. Cafe
Tamar’s distinctly Israeli identity makes it meaningful addition to our
list of hidden gems. Undiscovered by most tourists, this cafe gives
guests the opportunity to bask in a realm of relics.Shenkin 57 (the corner of Ehad Ha’am St)
Open Sunday to Friday 8 a.m. till 8 p.m.; closed Saturday
Not kosherAlexis earned
her Bachelor's Degree in Global Studies at the University of
California--Los Angeles. Her inspiration to explore culture through food
stems from her love of her grandmother's Moroccan cuisine.