Israel might be the land that figuratively flows with milk and honey, but Tel Aviv is literally a city knee-deep in dishes of eggy tomato sauce. Sound strange? So, arguably, does the name given to the contents of these dishes: shakshuka. Don’t let potential pronunciation blunders put you off, though; shakshuka is well worth getting your tongue around, in all senses. Ladies and gentleman, I’ve even made my own while I’ve been on WUJS (unsurprisingly, it doesn’t feature on the below list). Shakshuka is hard to avoid even on a holiday to Tel Aviv, so while living here for five months as a WUJIE it’s no great shock that it has become a staple of my diet.
Shakshuka is a simple yet sublime breakfast, lunch or dinner that, in my experience, rarely fails to hit the spot. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t winners and losers in the dog-eat-dog world of Israeli cooking. For fear of stirring up the wrath of local restaurateurs, I’ll steer clear of the losers for now and just review my personal favourite shakshuka spots in my new favourite city.
1. Café Kasbah, Florentin
When you Google ‘best places to eat in Tel Aviv’, this hipster paradise features on almost every search result. Walking in, it strikes you that the place is a microcosm of Tel Aviv itself: cool, laid-back, long-haired, full to the brim with dogs. I’m especially fond of it because it’s where my roommates and I went for lunch the day we arrived in Israel for our WUJS program. However, that was back in the dark days before I discovered Kasbah’s shakshuka. They don’t scrimp on portions here, so the shakshuka is a solid size. Not quite Man vs Food-worthy, but just the right amount. It’s got a good kick of spice, and comes with a hefty side of bread. Fellow carb-addicts will appreciate the vital importance of this. Ten out of ten.
2. Aroma, all over Tel Aviv
I’m not ashamed to say that Aroma is one of my favourite things about Israel. There’s no joy quite like the sight of that big black coffee cup on the side of the road when you’ve been driving for hours. If you’re looking for a fast shakshuka at a WUJIE-friendly price, Aroma is the spot. The ice cafe on the side is mandatory, obviously.
3. Fresh Café and Kitchen, all over Tel Aviv
Any meal that comes with a drink included gets my vote. Order a shakshuka in Fresh and a fruit juice arrives too. There’s the perfect ratio of egg to tomato sauce in this one – but I’m a fan of an eggy shakshuka, so if egg overload isn’t your thing this might not be the one for you. Fresh Cafés are usually found in the ‘nice’ parts of town – Ibn Gvirol and Dizengoff, for instance – so you can watch the yummy mummies promenading as you eat.
4. Dr Shakshuka, Yafo
In case the name wasn’t clue enough, this Jaffa joint is solely dedicated to my new favourite Middle Eastern meal. It’s probably the most famous shakshuka place in Israel, so you’ll want to go just to say you’ve been. As it’s their speciality, this is top of the range eggy tomato sauce. Go in the morning to experience Dr Shakshuka at its best.