Twenty years ago, had you walked around the grounds of the old Tel Aviv port, you would have found rundown ceramic shops, garages, hangars and storerooms on small dirty roads. Not anymore.
These days, especially in the summer and fall, the place is bustling with people from all over Israel
who want to catch a bite, watch the ocean, or take a stroll through one of Israel's fastest-growing entertainment centers.
The port was founded in 1936, after the British Mandate
approved the construction of a harbor to receive goods and immigrants to the Jewish settlement. It hasn't been a commercial facility since 1965, with most cargo now docking in Ashdod
and Haifa. The Marine Trust company, which had financed the port's construction, is now leasing over 90 dunams to carefully selected restaurateurs and entrepreneurs.
The company has laid the infrastructure and cleared out former residents to make way for a row of restaurants, businesses, and a sleek wooden deck that add a state-of-the-art, stylish and artistic flair, while attempting to preserve original architecture and the authenticity of former days.
The port is indeed esthetic, but the branding it has undergone gives it the feel of a spacious outdoor mall. Still, the eternal sea provides the port an edge over the Azrieli Towers
, Sheinkin and Dizengoff.
Below is a partial list of restaurants and bars in the area.
A branch of this hamburger bar/restaurant chain serving hefty burgers with a spicy Moroccan
twist.Eclectic decor mixes Moroccan themes with cozy lounge chairs and sofas to create a laid-back dining experience with a generally affordable menu.
Tel: (03) 605-7777
Although named after the famous Spanish fleet, Armada specializes in Italian Mediterranean cooking. The place looks a little like a ship. Upstairs there is a retro lounge bar with a DJ, while on the deck outside there are tables set up not much differently from neighboring outlets like Speedo and Gilly's.
Tel: (03) 544-5522
Meaning "bar at the end," Bar Katze really is the most secluded spot on the port, hidden away in the south side. Its location and very simple design make you feel like you're on a sailor's boat, where you can drink and relax in primitive luxury.
Benny the Fisherman
Benny really does exist. This uncouth fisherman founded the restaurant 30 years ago in Jaffa and moved it to the Tel Aviv port when businesses suffered due to the intifada.There is no formal menu: the catches of the day are written on a chalk board, but the simplicity and "arsiness" of the place give it its barbaric feel.
Tel: (03) 544-0764
This is one of the few restaurants that has survived in the northernmost section of the port (commonly known as the TLV
compound), thanks in part to its direct seaside view and tropical, somewhat snobby atmosphere.
Tel: (03) 544-6166
A pick-up/sushi bar with a classic, dark design and lounge area, attracting a 25+ crowd.
Tel: (03) 546-0510
Comme Il Faut
Comme Il Faut gives a feeling of something clean, fresh and corporate.There seems to be a personal concept and story under the surface of this immaculate cafe, but as part of a larger corporation, one has to crawl through some bureaucracy to figure it out.
Tel: (03) 544-9211
One of Tel Aviv's most successful bars, it's packed almost every night with a generally 27+ Tel Aviv crowd wanting to feel a little glamorous.
One of the few bar/restaurants in the port that caters to singles. While other port establishments are filled with families and couples, Galina's colorful cushioned sitting areas are filled with singles lounging in an atmosphere amenable to finding some procreative action.
Tel: (03) 544-5553
Transplanted from the Jerusalem
city center three years ago, the chef at Gilly's has expanded what was once mostly a meat menu to include breakfast and seafood, as befits the seaside location.
Hamisbaa is a throwback to Israel of the Eighties, with a fun- loving, slightly raunchy, slightly cheesy atmosphere and homemade tehina, humus and kebab served to live Israeli rock cover bands. Formerly stationed on Dizengoff St., Hamisbaa has made its new, upgraded home in the port, drawing old-time clientele and the occasional Knesset member, policeman, old-school celeb, soccer player and mobster.
Tel: (03) 544-4250
A mini-club in the old port compound features intimacy, music, prices and a generally clean-cut crowd that make it a sane alternative to the heavy house/techno parties at major Tel Aviv nightclubs.
Tel: (052) 665-5001
The Mul Yam Seafood Center made its home at the port 10 years ago - long before its neighbors - and also stands out in its reputation.Mul Yam is the only Israeli restaurant to receive recognition in the French culinary guide, Les Grandes Tables du Monde.Mul Yam's presence at the port has raised the stature of the area, but the other restaurants can only dream of achieving Mul Yam's culinary perfection, which is reflected in its gourmet prices.
Tel: (03) 546-9920
One of the few bars in the northernmost section of the port that has preserved an exclusive, Tel Aviv yuppy feel - warding off the Israeli BNT ("Bridge and Tunnel" people from Bat Yam
Lezion and other more "vulgar" Tel Aviv outskirts) - Rivendell was built on the grounds of the now-defunct TLV, but retains the feel of a happening nightclub, with a deck that closes in the winter.
Seabreeze is a spa/bar/restaurant that offers one of the more relaxing, friendly and pleasant experiences on the port, combining a spa experience, generally healthful food and liquor.The complex houses a spa offering a variety of massage and peeling treatments, a non-smoking indoor bar (rare for Israel), and an outdoor deck with comfortable sitting areas and a tropical zula.Treatment packages which include meals for singles and couples are recommended as an ideal way to treat yourself or someone you love.
Tel: (03) 544-4214
You won't see pictures of Miles Davis
or Ella Fitzgerald
on the brick walls of this new jazz bar, but you'll find portraits of Israeli jazz musicians Arele Kaminski and Ednah Goren.That's because Shablul, one of Israel's authentic, serious and professional jazz bars, is dedicated to giving Israeli jazz musicians and connoisseurs a bona-fide jazz experience that embraces the local scene.
Tel: (03) 546-1891
Shalvata, or "asylum" in Hebrew
, is a secluded seaside restaurant by day and a happening dance bar by night. No matter what the hour, Shalvata's outdoor furniture, palm trees, ocean view and laid-back staff provide a getaway within the city.
Tel: (03) 544-1279
This restaurant is like a big ad for the swimsuit company, with a sporty orientation and staff who are supposed to be clad in Speedo wear. A boutique Speedo shop is located at the entrance.
Tel: (03) 546-1140
Yama is a professional, pleasant and invested restaurant - on the southern side of the port.While others in the southern area seem to be mismanaged and neglected, Yama takes care to provide friendly service with a diverse menu and wine at reasonable prices - especially compared to the inflated prices on the northern side.The decor is light and airy, with rotating art exhibitions every month.
Tel: (03) 546-9093
This article was originally published on Sep 2, 2005