A day at the Carmel outdoor market

There’s something about open-air markets that always make me feel so at home.

Michal and Yaron Hazan sell vegetarian or meat lahmajoun, along with a number of tasty salads (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Michal and Yaron Hazan sell vegetarian or meat lahmajoun, along with a number of tasty salads
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
There’s something about open-air markets that always make me feel so at home. Incredible aromas waft through the air, stall owners belt out prices and descriptions of their wares, and the colors of all the fruits and vegetables are so eye-catching.
“Today only, today only!” calls out one vendor who’s holding up a beautiful Thai eggplant to entice potential customers. His enthusiasm makes me want to buy one of these unusual vegetables before they’re all sold out.
Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market is one of Israel’s most crowded markets, and in recent years it has been the destination of many tourist outings. It now boasts a number of bars and cafes where shoppers and tourists can stop for a quick drink.
And if you happen to go to the shuk on a Friday morning when everyone is madly trying to get their pre-Shabbat shopping done, you’re in for a real treat. There are so many interesting stories about the shuk and hidden spots that you would probably hear about only on a guided tour.
A new popular outing is shuk tours with a culinary twist in which participants get to taste from the delicacies of a few choice vendors. One company that offers culinary tours is MasterShuk. On its tours, guests get to imbibe drinks to their hearts’ content from a variety of wines and other alcoholic beverages. These three-hour tours, which cost NIS 250 per person, include fine wine produced by Yossi Ben Odis, owner of the Wine Lounge Bistro and also Chateau de Galilei Winery.
The tour begins at the entrance to the shuk on Allenby Street. Right at the start of the tour, you hear the cork being yanked out of a bottle of wine, and soon enough everyone is enjoying their first sips. Some people might raise an eyebrow and say that drinking wine so early in the morning is a bit risqué, but when you participate in the tour you realize that this first sip helps you get into the mood and relax when everyone else around you is frantically hurrying by.
First stop: Multicolored juices
In an effort to balance the intensity of all the alcohol that will be imbibed during the tour, the first stop is at the Etrog Man. Uzi Eli, who began offering his unique concoction in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehudah market, decided to expand his empire and provide Tel Avivians with his creation, too. Eli’s daughter is in charge of the Carmel Market branch, and she goes to great lengths to convince people to try new things and experience new flavors.
Location: 11 Carmel Street
Second stop: Real Turkish burekas
What makes the shuk so special is hearing stories from veteran stall owners who’ve spent years selling their wares there. The second stop is Real Turkish Burekas restaurant, where owner Haim greats every guest with a warm authentic Turkish burekas, which are especially wonderful when eaten with fresh tomatoes and sour pickles.
It’s a great idea that the tour reaches Haim early on, so that participants don’t have to get through the rest of the tour on an empty stomach. I personally love Haim’s cheese burekas, which I enjoyed alongside a sour yogurt drink.
Real Turkish Burekas is a popular meeting place for shoppers and vendors alike who are happy to catch up on current events and spend a few minutes together with friends.
Location: 39 Carmel Street
Third stop: Lahmajoun
One of my absolute favorite places of all in the market is Junam, where Michal and Yaron Hazan sell vegetarian or meat lahmajoun, along with a number of tasty salads.
Coming to Junam is an experience even before you get to taste the incredible delicacies they prepare. Customers are always greeted with a big smile, and you can’t help but begin to swoon from the intoxicating aroma of freshly chopped herbs and baking dough topped with beef or eggplant.
Location: 20 Rabbi Akiva Street
Fourth stop: The singing coffee man
The next stop is Cafe Cohen, one of the most veteran stalls in the shuk. Owner Shlomo Cohen is continuing the tradition established by his grandfather and continued by his father. After working many years in education, Cohen decided to spend his retirement years running the coffee stand his grandfather built in 1925.
In addition to grinding fresh coffee every morning, Cohen enjoys entertaining customers with one of his favorite pastimes: singing.
Location: 32 Yishkon Street
Fifth and sixth stops: Cheese and sweets
In addition to selling fruits and vegetables, the market is home to stalls that sell fine cheese, as well as a huge assortment of candies. The visits to these two stalls are quick, but they are very important nonetheless, as you get to taste lots of yummy cheese and candies. Davka Gourmet, which offers cheese, is located directly next to the halva and candy stall, so you can choose whether to enjoy savory or sweet treats (or both) and, of course, bring some home.
Location: 34 Carmel Street
Last stop: Beer Bazaar
The last stop on the tour is Beer Bazaar, a great place for friends and neighbors to hang out and enjoy a refreshing glass of cold beer. The Carmel Market branch, which is a smaller version of the other branches in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, offers a variety of Israeli boutique beers at reasonable prices.
Location: 1 Rambam Street
Translated by Hannah Hochner.