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.
You can tell a lot about a city by whether it has an outdoor market and Jerusalem has a great market. In 1982 for a book called “Israel Sprouts: A Vegetarian Guidebook (to Israel)” I drew a map of Mahane Yehuda to help people find their way around. I scanned that map and added a lot of new information so that it better reflects Mahane Yehuda today – it’s not just a fruit and vegetable market with shops selling dried goods. It has gentrified and there are restaurants and cafes, designer clothes shops, health food stores, artisan bakeries, shops that sell imported cheeses, fine wines, chocolates, halva.
To help organize the information I’ve separated the information into 3 maps and color coded them, one for restaurants, one for gifts and one for food shopping. To get your FREE copy of the latest maps I’d appreciate it if you would subscribe by entering your email address in the right hand column under FOLLOW BLOG – then just send an email to mahane.yehuda.map at gmail dot com. With these maps in hand you’re ready to head out to explore the shuk on your own or contact me for an insider’s guided tour of Mahane Yehuda. Have fun exploring the shuq.
Some ideas about things to do with the help of this map:
Mid-morning and you went out without breakfast – check out the health food stores on Agrippas Street, buy some fresh fruit, like pineapple, star fruit, kiwis, mangos; try a bureka, a filo pastry with cheese and/or spinach.
Want organic? There is organic produce and products at TevaNet on Agrippas and an organic restaurant on #1 Agas Street, note that Agas is called Banai at Mahane Yehuda Street.
Picnic? Head for one of the stores like Basher or Zedkiyahu and pick up an assortment of cheeses & salads. Get artisan breads at Teller. Wine? Fruit for desert. Walk down Agrippas Street (west, away from town) to the park, Gan Sacher.
Snack – felafel (in our family, the favorite is the brothers Levi on the corner of Mahane Yehuda and Agrippas Street). For hummus try Rachmo, Agas 1 or Azura.
Feel like eating something else – Ichikadana is a vegetarian Indian restaurant on HaEshkol Street, Topolino is a cozy, Italian restaurant, both are family run.
Looking for a present for loved ones back home – check out handicrafts at Roza, pottery at Pri HaAdama, Moroccan crafts at Rika.