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Eating Your Way Through Israel — On a Budget

Whether you’re craving creamy hummus, cheesy burritos, Indian dahl, grilled calamari, Druze pastries or fresh fish, eating well in the Holy Land doesn’t have to cost you much. We’ve compiled a list of where to get the best bite for your buck. From Israel’s northern border to its most southern tip, learn where to find delicious, hearty, local, homemade, and budget-friendly options, all for under 60 shekels (less than $17). It turns out foodies can be frugal, too.

Sabich HaNegba street 16, corner of HaRoeh street, Ramat Gan

The dispute over who made the first Sabich – fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, tehini, hummus and salad stuffed in a pita and drizzled with amba (the Iraqi version of mango chutney) – in Israel is well known to Ramat Gan-ners and Sabich-lovers alike. The employees here and anyone else who grew up in Ramat Gan, claim the word Sabich originates from the name of the deceased Iraqi owner of this spot, Sabich Chalabi, who first made and sold the glorified sandwich in 1961, now considered a national gem. His ID card is proudly laminated on the wall of the place to prove his claim to the patent. True or not, this is the place for sabich.

If you’ve never heard of the dish, you’re certainly in for a life-changing vegetarian treat for the whopping price of 18 NIS. Half portions are also available. This may be a messy feast so devote yourself to the experience, don’t wear elegant clothing and you might even enjoy it when the first drop of tehini stains your shirt. Warm, simple and filling — you’ll never go back to falafel or shwarma. A small tip: if you don’t plan on smelling like you’ve just bathed in yellow curry, skip the amba — although I swear it’s worth it.

Ibn Gvirol 23, Tel Aviv

The hustle and bustle of Ibn Gvirol, day-in and day-out, makes chef Eyal Shani’s fast food gourmet pita-ria the most happening place to be. The delicacies at Shani’s pita-empire include rooster liver, baked potato, ratatouille (grilled eggplant, eggs, and tehini), minute-steak (thin slices of steak), steak & eggs (fried egg), roasted cauliflower and even “Pink-in-a-pita” (fresh shrimp).

The genius in each bite here is found in the toppings. Depending on the order, your pita will be topped with crushed tomatoes, hot green peppers swimming in olive oil, tehini and homemade sour cream. Blasting music at full volume, the hipster staff here takes your pita order and cries out: “What do you wish to be called today,” and “do you want a ‘line’ while you wait?” For just 13 NIS, the edge or tip of your pita, referred to as a line at Miznon, is filled with Nutella and banana, “whatever there is”, eggs and tehini or anything else you want off the menu. You can have ‘a line’ while you wait for your order or have the nutella and bananas for a savory desert. With prices ranging between 26-57 NIS, this place is for anyone who appreciates inexpensive food made with loads of love.

Levontin 28, Tel Aviv

When travelling on a budget, Tortillas served in a relaxing atmosphere with a cold glass of boutique Israeli beer and refreshing frozen margaritas, really couldn’t be better. Although the Yarzin brothers (Israel’s renowned restaurateur brother duo) only opened this spot in December 2012, the vibrantly colored aluminum chairs, Coca-Cola Napkin holders and the cactus-lined open kitchen give this an authentic old-school Mexican cantina vibe. Tacos, burritos and quesadillas come with your choice of shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, fish or vegetables with the traditional, rice, guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos, cheese, pico de gallo, or just a burry-your-face in a plate of nachos-done-right all between 16 to 38 NIS.

Abu Hassan
HaDolphin 1, Jaffa

Image by Thinkstock

No tour of Israel is complete without a bowl of hummus from Abu Hassan in Jaffa. Aside from indicating excellent chickpeas cooked to perfection, the two lines out the door indicate your two dining options: take away and sit on the beach or wait for a table to clear and sit with strangers.

Don’t expect salad, fries or even pickles here — its all about the hummus with your choice of chickpeas, fava beans or Masbacha topping, a side of raw onion and of course, freshly baked pita. Half portions go for 10 NIS, full portions for 16 and one-and-a-half for 26 NIS. Located in Jaffa, the restaurant was opened by the father of the family, Abu-Hassan, in 1966 whose sons have since opened an additional two locations. Make sure to come early as often times the place runs out of hummus by noon and the doors simply close.

Herzl 87, Ramla

Dating back to the Ummayads, the Crusaders and the Ottomans, the small city of Ramla has become a destination for many curious travelers in Israel. Rich with Muslim, Christian and Jewish heritage, it seems only natural for this city to have one of the best vegetarian Indian restaurants in Israel (huh?).

Soft na’an bread and crunchy poppadums, flaky samosas, onion bajis, deep-fried savory pastries, Masala dosa, paneer cheese in butter sauce and cauliflower with curry make this a true vegetarian paradise. All menu options are yours for under 40 NIS unless you opt for the three-course tasting menu that ranges between 65 to 80 NIS. If you manage to move after this meal, the store in the back has a large selection of Indian products and sweets.

**Yudaleh **
Bayt YaAkov 10, Shuk Mahne Yehudah, Jerusalem

Those who wish to dine in style in the capital without burning a hole through their wallets should find their way to Yudaleh, located on the edge of the famous Mahane Yehudah market in Jerusalem. It’s affectionately known as the “little brother” of the trendy and pricey “Mahneyuda” restaurant.

With just 30 seats and reasonable prices, this spot is a perfect combination of chic and shuk. The décor is homey — with chefs flipping sautéed mushrooms on hot flames and drumming on pots and pans. Behind them is a lego-colored tile wall and the wall to their left is lined with an excellent selection of Israeli wines nestled between wooden planks. The startling humor you’ll find on Yudaleh’s Tapas menu (16-35 NIS) sets the mood. The fare changes daily, depending on which fresh ingredients are available in the market. The menu includes options such as fish Carpaccio with grapefruit-wasabi sorbet, called “Tomer did LSD,” tartar of beef fillet on a bed of eggplant, sweetbreads, polenta, salmon, skirt steak and more.

Uri Buri
HaHaganah 2, Acre

Fish and seafood enthusiasts shouldn’t miss this spot located in a modest Ottoman building with beautiful arches and stunning views of the sea and Acre’s ancient port. Restaurateur Uri Buri (who could be mistaken for Gandalf with his floor-reaching white beard) combines various cooking traditions with local ingredients found along the shores of the Mediterranean. Fill up on freshly prepared ceviche, anchovies served with olives, herring, sashimi salmon, raw shrimp and coconut-milk curry based seafood soup as well as half portions of bass, trout, sea bream, barramundi, fish casseroles, gorgonzola shrimp, mussels, coquille saint Jacques (scallops) and much more for less than 60 NIS — a real steal considering the high-quality and incredible attention to detail given at this establishment.

Samboosak HaArazim
Road 89, Hurfeish

On a trip to the Galilee make sure to stop by this spot outside of the Druze town of Hurfeish, for a bite of freshly baked, crispy and doughy samboosak. The classic dish is a personal-pizza-sized pastry, baked to order and filled with either minced lamb (10 NIS), labane and zaatar (8 NIS) , peppers (7 NIS), tuna (10 NIS) or spinach. Take it to go.

Kornmehl Farm
Located on the northern side of road 40, approximately two kilometers south of the Tlalim Junction in the direction of Sde Boker.

Many delicatessens throughout Israel sell the cheeses made on the Kornmehl Farm, however, if you’re making your way down Eilat, be sure to make this stop for an off-the-beaten-track experience. Situated among views of the desert hills, the farm faces remnants of terraces belonging to an ancient farm from the Middle Bronze period.

The menu staples include homemade yogurt and granola with fresh seasonal fruit, cheese-filled pastries, calzones and salads. But specials like such as Edna cheese wrapped in crumbling dough served with a sweet-wine and apple sauce or Hagar (camembert cheese) on slices of potatoes served with garlic yogurt sauce may have you looking for lodging nearby. All menu options are under 44 NIS apart from the cheese platter, which comes with homemade bread, butter and fruit for 64 NIS. Pair with a glass of desert wine (13 NIS) or bring your own.

Eddies Hide-A-Way
68 Aghmonim St., Eilat

If you’ve made it all the way down to Eilat, the breathtaking views of the Red Sea with the backdrop of the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian mountains are truly amazing, the tax-free shopping at Zara is remarkable, the diving is excellent and the water cool and refreshing.

But real foodies know the only reason to go to Eilat in the sizzling summer months is Eddie’s Hideaway. An American citizen who made Aliyah, Eddie opened his restaurant in 1979 and offers eight types of pasta, seven variations of shrimp, 12 fish dishes and several steak choices influenced by Italian, French, American and even Asian cuisines. Located a short cab ride away from all of the hotels and Eilat’s noisy boardwalk, Eddie’s truly is hidden. For those travelling on a budget, get your share of gourmet dishes by sticking to the appetizers which include Carpaccio, salmon Torino, mussels, seafood gratin, calamari, three variations of shrimp, linguini Alfredo, stuffed mushrooms, artichoke hearts, chicken liver pate and roasted eggplant — all for under 60 NIS.

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