A tour to Israel has to include a bite of falafel; otherwise the experience will be incomplete.
Falafel has always been a subject for debate – which falafel is the tastiest? Which is more special? And who makes genuine falafel “the way it should be”? The debate is bolstered by the issue of the origin of falafel, and it is here that the ethnic genie comes out of the lantern and jumps straight into the pita. Some say it comes from Egypt. Some stretch its origin as far as India, while others – naturally – go for Yemen.
Maybe it is the multiplicity of origins that contributed to the end result, but the plain fact of the matter is that falafel eventually reached everyone. You can find middle aged Ashkenazi women asking the Yemenite falafel vendor for “only tehina and salad,” and they certainly know what they want, no less than the Egyptian woman on the corner.
Each falafel establishment offers a different assortment of salads and spreads. Another debate that will probably never be settled is the proper content of your pita. Some just have to have hummus and tons of salad, while others say that a hummus and falafel synergy is like eating bread and pita in the same bite. But, at the end of the day, the secret of the falafel balls lies in the mixture. Undoubtedly, there is no arguing over matters of personal taste, but it's still important to try to find the best. Here, then, is a guide to the nine best falafel places in
Best Falafel Places in Tel Aviv
Slap bang in the middle of King George Street, between the exhaust fumes and the buses, is one of the legendary Tel Aviv falafel establishments. At Dr. Saadiah they make “genuine Yemenite” falafel, as they say falafel should be. You’ll recognize the place by the lines outside. You can add hummus, cabbage, regular salad and spicy salad and parsley - as the balls that are so green, with lots of coriander, wait bubbling in the pita. We recommend eating your portion while seated by the counter, where you can enjoy watching everyone line up after you’ve already been served.
The secret: thick tehina
Dr. Saadiah, 45 King George Street, Tel Aviv
Falafel Hakossem has attracted reams upon reams of commentary but, when there’s true quality at hand, you get a reputation too. The falafel here is ground several times a day, and you can feel the freshness. Every falafel ball comprises hummus grains, fresh garlic, parsley, coriander, cumin, fennel and sesame. The workers on the conveyor belt have two main jobs – one is to prepare the falafel and not to move an inch from the pan, and the other is to give out falafel balls to keep those waiting in line relaxed.
The secret: a special garlic sauce (worth taking home too) and the “lifesaver eggplant.”
Falafel Hakossem, 1 Shlomo Hamelech Street, Tel Aviv
Falafel Benin Johnny
This small falafel venture on Tchernikovsky Street, just after Betzalel Market, has been preparing portions for the public for almost 54 years. Johnny founded the business but many Tel Aviv consumers also know the place as Benin - each according to his own preferred nickname. To start, you’ll be asked if you want potato and, as soon as you reply, the pita will be thrown towards the back window. There your pita will be filled with potato and falafel, and comes straight back for salads. The falafel balls are tender inside and the sesame coating adds a rigid texture. You pay for your falafel, sit down on the bench outside and enjoy the world.
The secret: juicy French fries made from a large round potato.
Falafel Benin Johnny, 2 Tchernikovsky Street, Tel Aviv
Falafel Shlomo & Sons
Just like a scene from the Israeli farce movie Eskimo Limon, the blue counter of Falafel Shlomo & Sons waits as people coming back from the beach, or others who have finished their walks on Dizengoff Street. “You want everything?” you are asked and, if you say yes, you’ll get pickles, cabbage and salad between the falafel balls that are prepared in a pan, right in front of your eyes. You get the falafel at one window, while your drink awaits you at the other window. The balls are not exactly uniformly shaped, but the flavor is strong and intoxicating. It is no wonder that the aroma reaches as far as the other end of Dizengoff Street.
The secret: the simplicity.
Falafel Shlomo & Sons, corner of Nordau Street and Ben Yehudah Street, Tel Aviv
Best Falafel Places in Jerusalem
Merkaz Hafalafel Hateimani
Close to 35 years of genuine Yemenite culture, and hundreds of thousands of falafel balls lie behind “the center” that all Jerusalemites know. The Yemenite seasoning, and the pleasant spiciness that finds its way into the pita, entice the public. Add to this the green balls and everything that goes with them and you end up with a winning formula. You can take your portion in standard pita, or in Yemenite pita prepared on the spot (some call it “lafa”).
The secret: the Yemenite formula.
Merkaz Hafalafel Hateimani, 48 Haneviim Street, Jerusalem
There was a time when this falafel was sold from a tiny hole in the wall, but the current location leaves you in no doubt that this has become a success story. The falafel balls are lightly seasoned, crispy and at just the right temperature. They find their way deep into the recesses of your pita or lafa, which means you can dig in until you finish every last morsel – until you take another potion.
The secret: the delicate seasoning.
Falafel Shalom, 34 Betzalel Street, Jerusalem
Best Falafel Places in Haifa
In the heart of Wadi Nisnas – standing opposite each other – are two falafel establishments that have been competing for years. A comprehensive market survey we carried out gave Hazkenim the lead over its rival, and we set off to earn our falafel. If the line is long, you’ll get a falafel ball dipped in tehina – to keep you going. You can polish off your portion, without too many salads or fuss, by the wooden counter that runs around the room, or eat it while roaming the nearby streets. The balls are well seasoned and the tehina is superb. That’s the way it is – if you’ve been in the business a while you learn a thing or two.
The secret: the street battle heritage.
Falafel Hazkenim, 18 Hawadi, Haifa
Best Falafel Places in Rosh Pina
The enormous shopping center that has sprung up across the road in Rosh Pina in recent years actually didn’t empty out Ussul, and it even boosted business. People passing through on their way up north should make a point of stopping at the falafel establishment in Rosh Pina, right next to the police station. Marvelously tender green falafel balls and pita, tailor made, have been keeping the place busy throughout the day for over a decade. And we haven’t forgotten the great pickles and the cordial service.
The secret: the charm of the north - what else?
Hummus Ussul, at the square next to the police station.
Best Falafel Places in Netanya
One of the best falafel places around stands at the entrance to the Netanya market. While you wait in line, you’ll get a hot falafel ball with a drop of tehina, but that’s only for starters. The falafel balls are prepared in a large pan in the middle of the stand, and a long metal pole is used to fish the balls out. The falafel, which is pressed deep into the pita to make sure it is completely full, is augmented by ful and an egg, spices and tehina, tomatoes with cabbage and pickles. The flagship offering is the complete portion, with all the above plus a chard cutlet.
The secret: the holy trinity – ful, egg and vegetable cutlet.
Falafel Moussa, 12 Weizmann Street, Netanya