Pop-ups are hitting Tel Aviv in a major way

“Not having a storefront allows me more financial flexibility to invest in creating more products."

VICKY CRISTINA: Multiple spins on tapas. (photo credit: SARIT GOFFEN)
VICKY CRISTINA: Multiple spins on tapas.
(photo credit: SARIT GOFFEN)
It’s no secret that rents in Tel Aviv are high and that the logistics of running any type of eatery often involve numerous costly mistakes. This is precisely why many culinary entrepreneurs are mitigating their risks by opting for pop-ups. Meanwhile, more established entrepreneurs are partaking in this trend, not only to help groom the future generation of local talent, but as a way to flex creativity while pushing new traffic to existing spots.
“There’s a lot of talent out there in need of platforms from which to be discovered,” says Café Xoho founder Xoli Ormut Durbin. Durbin not only sells wares from local creators in her restaurant, but recently held a pop-up market at Xoho featuring a number of local brands, including nut butters from Rusty’s, kimchi from Bajjali & Ko, and homemade jams from Wild Orli. 
Multi-brand pop-ups are also regularly organized by Karma, a brand that sells adaptogenic blends of superfoods, medicinal plants, mushrooms and tonic herbs. Founder Tamar Siegel puts together these events with local, like-minded businesses throughout the year.
“I love pop-ups at venues that are community-oriented like Citizen Garden and Shraddha Yoga Studio,” says Siegel. “Switching up locations also helps gauge the market – what works in Florentin may not be relevant to people in the Old North, for example. The information I’ve collected by doing pop-ups in different areas has been extremely informative in the development of my business.” 
In fact, one of the things she learned was that a permanent space – a longtime dream – wasn’t the way to grow her business, at least for now. “Not having a storefront allows me more financial flexibility to invest in creating more products. That said, I keep saying that when I have lots of shekels to play with, I’ll open a store.”
The pop-up-to-permanent model has, in fact, successfully worked for a number of young, talented chefs and entrepreneurs. Udi Shahar, for example, went from selling on-demand cold-pressed juices, raw vegan foods and cleanses, to operating a temporary space where he honed in on his customers’ palates and desires before opening his now-bustling permanent space in the Old North.
He hasn’t forgotten his roots, however. While most of the eats are made in-house, Shahar stocks select items – like cookies, truffles and banana bread – from local businesses like Piece of Nature, run by natural/raw food Chef Moran Naor, who herself is a frequent participant in pop-ups throughout town. 
“Exposure is the key word. Pop-ups give new and small players a stage for people to discover their products, and on the flipside, we can assess customer response to help us move forward with a minimized level of risk,” says Naor. “Pop-ups can also range from one day to lasting several months, which gives people like myself the opportunity to experience and understand what it means to be a business owner.”
NOT ALL CHEFS see pop-ups as a way to test the waters, however. Ifat Tvoua, the chef/owner of Florentin’s charming Fifi’s, sees pop-ups as a way to flex her creativity. “I was inspired by shows I saw on Netflix to start doing ramen pop-ups at Fifi’s, which I think are helpful to introduce our customers to new food as well as to attract new people,” she notes. “This concept serves my desire to try new things while also improving my skills.”
This idea was echoed by Noa Yosipovich, the public relations manager at Vicky Cristina who helped spearhead a number of pop-ups – which began in January and ran through early March – whereby various Tel Aviv restaurants infiltrate the Vicky Cristina kitchen for two days at a time, putting their own spin on the tapas style of dining. Bana, Ouzeria, Hotel de Ville, and Tiger Lilly are just a few of the names that signed on for the events which work to drive traffic to all eateries involved. 
“One of our aims is to expose our guests to new flavors from around the world,” says Yosipovich, adding that the experience is helping the Vicky Cristina kitchen develop and expand their own tapas selections. 
In the competitive culinary scene that reigns over Tel Aviv, no one can rest on their laurels, which is why you’re also seeing perennially popular spots like Brasserie hosting pop-ups. For three days in February, for example, Brasserie welcomed French Chef Sebastien Sanjou to develop a special menu that was served alongside their regular one. Meanwhile, the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel’s Olive Leaf welcomed Michelin-starred Chef Michel Husser for special pop-ups this month, and a black food festival was held at Cuckoo’s Nest whereby chefs from all around the city created black bites (including bagels, burgers, and even pastries). 
On a larger scale, Sarona Market, in an effort to attract patrons after-dark, launched a heavily promoted “Taste of Sarona” campaign. From January through the end of March – for two nights a week beginning at 6 p.m. and through closing, around midnight – guests can taste tapas-size dishes from nearly all of the stalls and restaurants for either NIS 10 or NIS 20 each. A DJ and live street performers were also brought in to ramp up the appeal of the market, which most people up until now exclusively associated with a place to go by day. 
Lastly, likely influenced by major players like Intersect by Lexus, culinary platforms are beginning to bloom in Tel Aviv. The Danny Meyer-backed Intersect, located in Manhattan, is a chef-in-residence program conceived as a way to give locals a chance to experience a new cuisine without having to get on an airplane. 
“For young global up-and-coming chefs, it’s an opportunity to give New Yorkers a taste of what they’re creating, while also helping to propel each chef’s career,” says Kirk Edmondson, the general manager of Intersect. 
“The rotating chef program also gives our team the opportunity to learn from an entirely different chef and team, every few months, without having to leave their job.” 
Mirroring this blossoming New York trend is L28 in Tel Aviv, which gives up-and-coming chefs six months to take hold of the space’s reins and develop their own menu and concept. With summer around the corner and a never-ending pool of talented chefs, this is surely only the beginning of this exciting culinary trend.
International hot spot  Serafina to open in Israel
If you’re a true Manhattanite, odds are you grew up on Serafina’s penne a la vodka and goat cheese salad. The Upper East Side staple has been around for decades and now has a number of offshoots around the world, including in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, India, Dubai, Turkey... and soon, Israel. 
Slated to open in the first week of August in Ramat Aviv, culinary entrepreneur and one of the owners of TYO, Yaki Kabir, is spearheading the project along with the original founders, Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato. Diners can expect the same salads, pasta and pizza dishes that have made Serafina a long-standing hot spot, but with a few menu tweaks to adapt it to the Israeli palate. Reps for the restaurant won’t go into specifics yet, as a chef has not been chosen, but they expect that the same core ingredients – think flour for the pasta and pastries, cheeses, and olive oil – will be brought to Israel and used by the kitchen so as to not disappoint Serafina’s longtime fans.
The Serafina announcement comes on the heels of the news that Nobu will be opening a restaurant and 38-room boutique hotel at 55 Rothschild Boulevard and 66 Ahad Ha’am Street. Giving the Norman a serious run for its money, Nobu Hotel will boast a large garden, fitness center, pool, outdoor spaces and a private rooftop.