Probably everyone who has been to Israel has tasted one of Israel’s most popular fast foods, falafel. It’s made out of mashed chickpeas with parsley, scallions, garlic, coriander and cumin. Formed into balls or croquettes it is fried until crunchy, stuffed in a pita with an Israeli salad of finely cut tomatoes and cucumbers and drizzled with tehina.
There’s no point arguing about where to find the best falafel, everyone has their favorite. Since we live in Jerusalem, our family swears by the Levi brothers on the corner of Etz Hayyim and Tut street in Mahane Yehuda. There you can have falafel in a pita or rolled up in a lafa, a large, round flatbread.
As a guide I spend quite a lot of time in the Old City and there are two fellows I’ve gotten to know who sell falafel on El Wad street that I like to support. Amin will give you a falafel ball to taste as you go by and gives a falafel snack to quite a few of the Arab children on their way home from school. You can’t beat his price, he sells a falafel in a pita with salad for 5NIS.
A little farther along, on the opposite side of the street is a fellow selling falafel in pita from a cart; I don’t know if he’s deaf but he’s not able to speak – he’ll be happy to make you a sandwich.
When you’re touring in the Galilee check out Falafel HaNasi in Afula. A friend shared this video that captures Golan in a virtuoso falafel in pita performance.
If you have your favorite falafel stand, take a moment to tell us about it in a comment.
I was doing some guiding in the Old City yesterday and as lunch time came around I began to think about a little fastfood, how about hummus, my favorite is with snobar, toasted pine nuts. Which hummus place should you choose? Everyone has their favorite so here are some of mine:
- Old City: a small place, there’s no sign but on the bill is written Cafeteria Ziad, on the right just up from Station VII of the Via Dolorosa (peek in and notice the column, in the exact place where it stood on the Roman Cardo). Lena is along the same street past Station VIII, on the left. Abu Shukri is on el Wad Street at Station V of the Via Dolorosa.
- Jerusalem: Pinati, on Melekh George Street corner of HaHistadrut (one block from the Midrahov, the pedestrian mall). Check out the photos of celebrities who have eaten there.
- Jerusalem: Rachmos, in the Mahane Yehuda market on 5 HaEshkol Street (see the map of Mahane Yehuda here). A lot of their clientele are still people who work and shop in the market.
- Jerusalem: Azura, in the Iraqi shuk area of Mahane Yehuda, a family-run restaurant serving hummus and meat dishes.
- Jerusalem: Hummus Bar, way down Agrippas Street, left side walking west, towards the park, Gan Sacher.
- Jerusalem: Hummus Ben Sira because it’s at 3 Ben Sira Street.
- Tel Aviv: On our way to Jaffa we found a small restaurant, Aba Gil, that serves soups, salads, bulghur, and hummus, organic, with whole wheat pita. 55 Yehuda HaLevi Street, 03 566-3320 and even its own website here.
If it’s a special occasion you want something more creative, more unique as a repast, food prepared with intention – slowfood. Then the place to go in Jerusalem is Eucalyptus in Hutzot HaYotzer, the artists colony just across from Jaffa Gate, to have a taste of chef Moshe Basson’s Biblical cooking.
“One afternoon, a Jewish chef and a Muslim chef got together to cook for peace. Moshe Basson of the Eucalyptus restaurant in Jerusalem and Nabil Aho of the Restaurant Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center made a menu from traditional Biblical food, including green wheat soup and musakhan chicken with hummus (and let’s just say it was the best hummus I ever tasted).”