Shawarma isn’t just street food anymore.
Middle Eastern aficionados take their shawarma seriously, and nowhere is this more evident than in Tel Aviv. A quick lunch option, this tasty delicacy of roasted meat cooked on a revolving spit, then shaved for serving in sandwiches has now taken on a gourmet flair. And the debate rages: Should it be served with or without hummus? Lamb, turkey, or veal? With or without amba and spice? Inside pita, a baguette or laffa (large flat bread)? Here are some of the top places, from street vendors to fancy eateries, where you can decide for yourself.
A casual, typically-crowded joint on the corner of Frishman and Dizengoff Streets, Yashka Shawarma is best known for two different varieties shawarma: turkey and veal. Choose pita bread, a baguette, or laffa, and be sure to ask for the curry mango sauce on the side. It’s the perfect snack to bring to a nearby beach. Or, if late-night reveling is your thing, it’s great as a midnight snack, too.
The Haj Kahil family has been in Jaffa for more than 120 years, originally making a living by driving notables around in carriages. On the site of the original carriage station, the family—which has made a name for itself in the restaurant business over the past four decades—opened this restaurant across from Clock Tower in the center of Jaffa. The food is indeed Arabic but with a Galilee twist; some say it’s the best when it comes to shawarma—especially the veal.
This popular, super casual chain has been making some of Tel Aviv’s best shawarma since 2001. The main branch is on Ibn Gvirol, with lines wrapping around the block beginning at noon and continuing straight into the evening. The cumin-spiced turkey shawarma is divine, though the chicken– seasoned with season–comes highly-lauded as well.
INSIDER TIPSeating is limited, with a small counter complete with maybe seven bar stools and a few outside tables. However, part of the experience is standing around outside with everyone, gorging yourself on messy goodness.
This beloved, unassuming stand in front of Old Jaffa’s famous Clock Tower is part of the Dr. Shakshuka restaurant and it sets the standard for real-deal veal or spiced lamb shawarma. The mixed lamb and chicken are also worth your time.
INSIDER TIPThe quantities are large, and you’ll probably have to eat standing outside. All part of the fun.
HaKosem means “the magician” in Hebrew–an apt name for the magical fare served up at this small eatery for more than a decade. The secret? Fans says the shawarma here is served with the perfect amount of fat. The lines are long, but “rescue” falafel balls are handed out to tide you over.
Secret Syrian family recipes are behind the consistently good food at this classic neighborhood institution, established in 1952. We know one of their tricks is the use of pistachios in their skewers. The turkey shawarma is highly-recommended, and the dill onion salad is a unique addition. And remember: Part of the experience is squeezing in between the locals, or eating out on the street.
INSIDER TIPSome of Israeli’s famous actors are known to frequent this restaurant.
Intimate and homey, this sophisticated little place on Tel Aviv’s trendy Lilienblum Street fills with young, friendly restaurant-goers late into the night. It’s not a shawarma joint, per se, given its extensive menu. But listed in between the calamari à la plancha and hangar steak, you’ll find the fish shawarma. This unique, amazing dish features diced fried fish filet served on laffa with tomatoes, green tahini, yogurt, and secret spices.
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss the crème brûlée lollipops for dessert.
“Food & vibe” is an apt motto for this lively eatery in Jaffa’s flea market. Showcasing fresh and creative cuisine, the menu is Turkish in flavor, with mezze favorites including cacik, (yogurt dip with cucumber, mint, and dill) and pacanga borek, a pastry filled with cured beef and kashkaval cheese. But if it’s shawarma you’re after, the Shawarma Doner–a delicious mix of chicken, lamb, herb aioli, and yogurt–does not disappoint.
Vegan shawarma? It may seem counterintuitive, but omnivores and vegans alike can enjoy “meaty” favorites at this beloved American-style vegan diner in the heart of Tel Aviv. The flavors and textures are just right, sans potential artery-clogging ingredients. The setting transports you straight to 1950s USA, complete with traditional counters and American pop music that would’ve been heard during that era.
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss the dessert menu, which features stunning vegan desserts like chocolate balls filled with white chocolate mousse.
This cozy restaurant is accented with colorful Tunisian tiles and is best known for its shakshuka, a classic Israeli dish made with spiced tomatoes, chili peppers, and poached eggs. There are several versions that put a delightful twist on classic shawarma, including chicken and turkey shawarma;some say it’s the best they’ve ever had.
This family-run Turkish establishment is might always be crowded, courtesy of its new, a more central location at Dizengoff Center but it’s always worth the wait. There are three kinds of shawarma: lamb, turkey, and Cornish hen, served on pita or laffa. With that said, lamb is the down-home favorite, though feel free to mix and match.