Top 5: Gluten-free options in Tel Aviv

Food enthusiasts at Taste TLV give their verdict on the best that the Tel Aviv dining scene has to offer.

gluten sensitivities (photo credit: Thinkstock)
gluten sensitivities
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
TasteTLV is the ultimate culinary guide for dining in Tel Aviv.
Walking through the streets of Tel Aviv is an olfactory pleasure. On Fridays you are greeted with the warm smell of halla baking in every storefront. At all hours of the day, the bakeries on each block seem to have a never ending supply of warm chocolate rugelach and flakey burekas. If you think you’re hungry, follow your nose to any corner for a fluffy white pita stuffed with hot falafel and hummus.
These are staple foods in Israel, which is why you will find them everywhere, freshly baked. For most people, this lifestyle is a dream. But for those of us with gluten sensitivities, these aromas are torture. On Friday nights, the blessing over the halla becomes your curse. While your friends rush into the bakery for chocolatey pastries, you wait outside to avoid temptation, like a dog chained to a post. And while others chow down on authentic falafel for a quick snack, you find yourself asking for a plate of hummus and cabbage, which hardly simulates the real thing.
Israelis take pride in their food and have come up with a number of ways to make their meals available for every stomach. As such, Tel Aviv is home to a number of gluten free/friendly dining destinations for those of us who want to enjoy Israel without dietary restrictions.
Café Marco
(Karen Cohen)(Karen Cohen)
Nestled on the corner of Gordon and Dizengoff, you will find Cafe Marco and the culinary delights that come with it. If not for the tanned waiters and Hebrew menus, you would think you were dining in an Italian cafe. Most of the seating is outside save for four tables in what looks like a small bakery. For the past seven years, Cafe Marco has been catering to all palates, including gluten-free ones.
Cafe Marco offers authentic Italian cuisine including seafood dishes, hearty paninis, soups, pizza, and of course, pasta. For gluten free options, you need only tell the wait staff what you want, and they will tell you whether or not this is available without gluten. All of the sandwiches (served until 5 p.m.) can be prepared on gluten-free bread, and most of the pasta dishes are available without gluten as well, making this a perfect place for gluten sensitive people to bring their stomach-healthy friends. Note that the gluten free dishes do cost a few shekels more than the normal menu items.
For an excellent meal, try the pappardelle al ragu. This dish includes a heaping serving of gluten-free pasta covered in a slow cooked meat sauce, tomatoes, and root vegetables. And to top off the night, ask for the gluten-free chocolate cake. Without knowing it, you would never guess that this fudgy delight is gluten-free. Don’t tell your friends and watch them enjoy.
39 Gordon Street
(03) 529-1775
Not kosher
Eat Meat
(Karen Cohen)(Karen Cohen)
Eat Meat is located on the ever-humming streets of King George, where temptations from bakeries and restaurants are high. Fortunately, at Eat Meat, you never have to feel like you are missing out. The menu is as simple as it’s name. You have two options to choose from here: a meat salad or a meat sandwich. So, while this is not specifically a gluten-free establishment, fifty percent of the menu is, making Eat Meat an easy dining experience for those with gluten sensitivities.
Eat Meat’s salad includes a generous portion of thinly sliced and freshly grilled entrecote, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, hot peppers (upon request), mayonnaise, chimichurri sauce, and deli mustard. For many people, the salad is too large to finish in one sitting, making this a perfect excuse to bring a date. Seating is limited to an indoor bar with approximately five stools, and several outdoor tables.
68 King George
(03) 525-2153
Not kosher
Hippo Falafel
(Karen Cohen)(Karen Cohen)
Although falafel is technically fast-food, and fast-food is notoriously unhealthy, Hippo Falafel breaks the mold. Having worked in the falafel industry for decades, owner Dima Kaminsky became disappointed with the authentic food that Israel was offering up to its people. When he opened Hippo Falafel, he decided it would be under the pretext that he could serve his customers healthy falafel. As such, the ingredients are completely organic, and every falafel ball is gluten free. Kaminsky went a step further and also offers gluten-free pita for a guilt-free (and stomach friendly) sabra meal.
Because there is gluten-free pita, gluten-intolerants can enjoy any menu item at Hippo Falafel. So when you’ve had your fill of light, fluffy, organic, and non-greasy falafel, try the sabich. Sabich is an authentic Israeli sandwich consisting of pita stuffed with cooked eggplant, hard boiled eggs, tahini, hummus, and Israeli salad (chopped tomato, cucumber, and onions). The best thing about Hippo Falafel is that they are as fair to your wallet as they are to your intestines! A falafel sandwich costs NIS 17 -- cheaper than the less healthy versions you would buy in Dizengoff Center. Yes, Hippo Falafel is worth a visit, and a bite.
64 Dizengoff
(03) 609-3394
Cup O’Joe (Cafe Joe)
(Karen Cohen)(Karen Cohen)
There are few things that are worse than walking by a sandwich shop and not being able to have a single bite of one menu item. Especially when the sandwiches are adorned with gooey melted cheese, fresh roasted vegetables, and blends of fragrant spices. The only thing worse than having to walk by this sandwich shop once, is having to walk by it multiple times... because its a chain. Unlike most chains, each Cafe Joe in Israel has a cozy and unique atmosphere that makes it just as easy to work in the restaurant as it is to socialize with friends, and of course eat.
The best thing about Cafe Joe is that every sandwich can be prepared with gluten-free bread. For those who have tried gluten-free bread, you’ll know that this food is either hit or miss; more often than not, gluten-free bread is stale and tasteless. At best, it is edible when eaten with the right condiments. But Cafe Joe’s sandwich bread is incredibly commendable. The bread is warm and chewy with a hint of sweetness that compliments any sandwich. For a real treat, try the “spicy toast”. This large panini comes warmed with tomato sauce, garlic, chili, grilled peppers and two different types of melted cheeses: mozarella and bulgari. Never deny yourself a hearty sandwich again!
Multiple locations throughout Israel
Dizengoff St. Open 24/7
Not kosher
(Karen Cohen)(Karen Cohen)
There is no easier place to be gluten free than an Indian restaurant. Vegetables are predominant in every course, and aromatic basmati rice is almost always the side dish. (Of course, depending on what you order you can also enjoy tenderly cooked chicken, lamb, or beef.) Tandoori makes things difficult though, but not because of the gluten-free specifications. Rather, every menu item at Tandoori is so beautifully described and presented, that making a decision on what to order becomes a sacrifice of all the other delicious menu items you can try. Furthermore, Tandoori provides diners with authentic Northern Indian food in an equally authentic atmosphere-- hand-carved statues of elephants line the walls while Bollywood music plays quietly in the background.
For a gluten free meal that you and your friends are bound to enjoy, start with a cup of mango or lychee sweet lassi, a tart and creamy yogurt drink blended with Indian spices. Next, try the malai kofta- nut and cheese croquettes cooked to perfection a fragrant cream and curry sauce. Pair the dhal makhani (black lentils) with chicken makhani (grilled chicken in an exotic sauce), and of course, a side of basmati rice, and you’ll have a meal fit for royalty.
2 Zamenhoff St
(03) 629-6185
Not kosher
The writer is currently an intern for Taste TLV. Jessica Hochstadt was born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida, where she was lucky enough to grow up with a mixture of Brasilian, Cuban, and Jewish cuisine.