For a first-time visitor to Tel Aviv, the sheer number of cafes can be a bit confusing. Where are the best ones? Or where are the cafes that suit your style? Below are my own recommendations. It’s a very incomplete list, and you might discover a hidden gem that I haven’t experienced yet, but I promise you won’t go wrong with any of these places.
Café Noach – a book-lined café in the heart of Tel Aviv that’s popular with writers. 93 Ahad Ha’am (corner of HaHashmonaim). Closed Friday night / Saturday.
18 Balfour Street – tucked away on a quiet corner, this beautiful little café looks like something out of Paris during the belle époque. The croissants are better than Paris, though. Closed Saturday.
Café Ben Ami – Full of models and media types,during the day, this café serves some of the best pastries in the city. 22 Nachmani Street. Closed Friday night / Saturday.
Café Tachtit – Open 24 hours, this cozy little café attracts a bohemian / artsy crowd that includes some well known media types. 9 Lincoln Street.
LovEat – I don’t usually recommend cafes that require customers to order at the cash register, but the coffee at LovEat – their own blend – is so fantastic that I have to mention it. The wooden deck out back is also a lovely place to sit. The coffee can be purchased by weight to take away – ground or in whole beans. 37 Nachalat Binyamin, near the Carmel Market.
Horace Café – Just a few steps away from Jaffa’s legendary flea market, this stunningly beautiful café-cum-art gallery serves upscale café food and excellent homemade French pastries. 34 Olei Zion Street, Jaffa.
Puah Café – Located right in the middle of the flea market, this charming café is decorated in an appropriately eclectic style to reflect the surrounding atmosphere. The food is truly special, with a combination of Levantine and European influences. 3 Rabbi Yohanan Street, Jaffa.
Suzanna – In the heart of Neve Tzedek, opposite the Suzanne Dellal Center for Modern Dance, Suzanna specializes in Mediterranean and North African cuisine. 9 Shabazi Street.
Bialik Café – A charming place that attracts a lot of musicians and writers, Bialik is located on a noisy corner of Allenby, but Bialik Street itself is a lovely cul de sac, worth exploring for its museums and boutiques. The food is mediocre, but the coffee and drinks are excellent. 2 Bialik Street.
Café Michal – Michal’s Levantine/North African food is memorably delicious; it tastes as though it was prepared especially for you by a loving mother or aunt. The décor is upscale flea market, and the regulars include some famous authors and poets. 230 Dizengoff Street (corner of Jabotinsky).
Café Mersand – The ultimate hipster hangout, Mersand was until recently a dusty old café owned by cranky, aged German refugees who served bad coffee with a sneer. Then it was purchased by some local guys that employed tattooed and pierced waitresses who are a tad friendlier. The service hasn’t improved much in terms of efficiency, but the food and coffee are excellent – although the breakfast is a bit odd: eggs are hard or soft boiled only, with no fried or scrambled available. 70 Ben Yehuda Street (corner of Frishmann).
Shine – Sleek and modern, Shine is a trendy hangout with an interesting menu that includes a sweet-and-sour tofu salad. Nice touches include water glasses filled with chunks of orange and lemon. At night, Shine turns into a happening bar scene. 38 Shlomo Hamelech.
In addition to all the independent cafes, there are several homegrown chains that are so successful that Starbucks went broke one year after trying to enter the Israeli market. There was just too much competition from local cafes that offered a better product for a lower price.
Arcaffe – Upscale and expensive. Counter service for the first order, but second orders will be taken by the waiter.
Café Café – Friendly table service and good – though not great – coffee. The menu is standard Tel Aviv café food – nothing special, but not bad.
Hillel – originally a Jerusalem chain, Hillel is kosher. It offers counter service only. The quality is similar to Café Café.
Aroma – With its signature red-black-and-white motif and sleek design, Aroma cultivates a young clientele that tends to go for the sweet, Starbucks-style frozen coffee drinks. All beverages are served with a cube of chocolate. Try the house coffee with whipped cream and melted chocolate.
Ilan’s – There are only a few branches around Tel Aviv, but Ilan’s is known for its superior product and knowledgeable staff. The cafes also sell a range of coffee makers and beans.
Espresso Bar – A pioneer in the local café business, Espresso Bar goes back to the mid-1990’s – ancient history for Tel Aviv, the ultimate modern city. Its staying power is testament to its quality. Unlike most of the local café chains, Espresso Bar offers table service at all its branches.
Did I miss a gem?…