Written by: Chelsea Truesdell
Since moving to Tel Aviv in February, I have yet to properly explore the surrounding neighborhoods outside of my walking distance. Sure, I have been dancing at the clubs in the Namal, dining at the Tel Aviv restaurants in the Florentine, and shopping at the boutiques in the center city. But something urged me to go beyond my boarders and journey deeper into my city. When I asked Judith and Kassandra where I should investigate, they answered at the same time, “Neve Tzedek.”
The only tidbit I knew about this quaint little neighborhood in south Tel Aviv was that it was the oldest neighborhood in the city. It was the first one built when Tel Aviv was born in 1887 and housed many of the artists and writers who moved here. Since then, it’s had its share of neglect but has bounced back in the recent twenty years. I was excited to walk around the neighborhood and see something new, or rather old, which I have yet to see in Tel Aviv.
Neve Tzedek welcomed me in with charming streets and a mix of aged and modern architecture. As I walked down Shabazi, I fell more and more in love with the neighborhood. The streets were lined with endearing ice cream parlors, picturesque cafes offering fresh baked croissants and hot coffee, and delectable restaurants with mouth-watering menus. Although some consider Neze Tzedek to be a stylish, yuppie neighborhood, I found the atmosphere to be relaxed and sincere. Every restaurant and café I peeked my head into offered me a smile from the host and a scene of happy customers enjoying delicious meals.
As I walked through the quiet narrow streets, I scribbled down names of cafes and restaurants that I needed to come back to. When I walked by the Anita Ice Cream parlor on Shebazi and Piness, I couldn’t resist stopping in.
Flavors such as banana-date, halva, fig-walnut, chocolate-mint, and white-chocolate-orange-ginger lined the windows of the ice cream case. I couldn’t help but taste one flavor, then two, then three, the four. The banana-date took my mouth on a paradise vacation; the rich chocolate melted my heart. Before I had to unbutton my pants, I forced myself to walk away and continue on my journey.
I walked along a little further until I hit Nina Café on the corner of Shabazi and Neve Tzedek. I saw a woman indulging in a sandwich filled with feta, roasted peppers, tomatoes, and basil through the window. Just the smell alone coming out from the café drew me in.
The menu was filled with salads, sandwiches, and beverages- the quinoa salad with cucumbers, parsley, onions, olive oil, and bell peppers; the Nina baguette with pickled lemon, capers, spicy pepper spread, tuna, egg, potato, and tomatoes; the cheese plate with camembert, goat cheese, feta, Roquefort, and gouda... I could go on all day! Although these are common foods you see in Tel Aviv restaurants, I could tell by the preparation of the food and the genuine atmosphere of the café that the food offered here would be worth every shekel.
When I left Nina Café, I was hit with a downpour of mid-afternoon rain. I knew I had to head back to my apartment soon before I was swept away in a gutter. I put my hood on and was reluctantly hurrying out of the neighborhood to the nearest bus station when a restaurant caught my eye. I had to go with my gut and take a peek inside; something about this restaurant wouldn’t let me pass it by. I walked in drenched with rain and asked to see a menu in my broken Hebrew. As the hostess grabbed me one, I fell in love with the place instantly.
There was an outdoor eating area that even in the rain looked enjoyable to relax in. The inside of the restaurant was filled with tables meant for two people only- the perfect date night restaurant. She handed me the menu and I fell in love all over again. At the top read the name “Suzana” and under it was a list of delectable dishes, from puff pastries filled with shrimp, calamari, and garlic cream to roasted goose leg with root vegetables.
I was almost drooling when I read over the list of “Stuffed” which included pastries stuffed with chicken, almond, and prune sauce; eggplant, goat cheese and tomatoes; and liver, onion, and pear sauce. I couldn’t help but indulge and order the chicken, almond, and prune stuffed pastry and the vegetable root salad. When I took my first bite, a true food orgasm exploded in my mouth. The vegetable root salad was filled with slices of beets and carrots sprinkled with peanuts, feta, and a light dressing. The pastry was stuffed full of chopped up chicken breast mixed with toasted almonds and surrounded with a tangy, fruity prune sauce. The combination of the two took my mouth to a flavor oasis. This was truly the best dish I have had in a restaurant in Tel Aviv.
There are a multitude of restaurants in Tel Aviv that are yearning to be discovered, tucked in every little corner of the city. Neve Tzedek is a true treasure filled with charismatic cafes and tempting restaurants. If you’re looking for an enchanting afternoon to wander aimlessly and enjoy carefully crafted food, let Neve Tzedek welcome you in.