Text and photo by Gili Karev
How to live as a Tel Avivian on the lowest possible budget
Tel Aviv is a smorgasbord of entertainment. Whether you’re looking for a decadent gourmet evening, a good beer at the local pub or even just to watch the sun set over the beautiful Mediterranean, the city can provide it all. She is the fulcrum of Israel’s musical, artistic and culinary culture. She is the pretentious acquaintance we all secretly want as our best friend. She is never idle.
Yet in recent years it has become difficult to indulge in her cultural fine points without doing just that – indulging. I find myself more often than not conceding to “nights in”, where my friends and I can share our one measly bottle of wine to avoid having our wallets suffer a torturous act of abandonment and vacuity. When we do peel ourselves out of our undersized apartments and declare our youthfulness in the form of a night out, it generally ends in a collective equating of the money we so begrudgingly just spent. Musical entertainment is normally obtained through the well-known method of connections (“I’ll send you the entire semester of class notes and my mid-term assignment if you get me free tickets to your show”), and artwork is usually enjoyed more within homes of good friends than in ostentatious galleries while elitist owners saunter to and fro. My personal pleasure is jazz, and unless I agree to spend the 100 shekels an hour for a local performance I’m stuck with listening to old Miles Davis records in my living room.
The beauty of Tel Aviv is that, interspersed between all her lavishness, there is a little bit of welcomed modesty. Whereas perhaps understated, these bars and cafes are equally, if not more so, rewarding in both culture and class. I am therefore providing for you, dear reader, from the depths of my woe-is-me mentality, something I’d like to call Faltzan for the Kamptzan, or in English, how to live like an artsy fartsy Tel Avivian on the lowest possible budget.
The following is a short yet very sweet list of places I feel most at home away from home. Places where it is possible to enjoy good drinks, good music, and good company without surrendering your entire month’s rent to the luxury of sophistication.
Rothchild 12: Named after its address, this restaurant-at-day, bar-at-night is one of my favorite spots in the city. A simple yet deliciously fresh menu is coupled with all day 20 shekel cocktails, and its quintessentially Tel Avivian vibe provides for unparalleled people watching along the boulevard. If the outside patio is full (which it usually is) you can sit inside and enjoy Charlie Parker and Nina Simone until their nightly live band begins to set up stage. The crowd is colorful and the vibe instantly suave – even the water is served in wine glasses.
Wineberg, 106 Ben Yehuda St.: This cozy tapas bar has a great international wine list and a variety of different dishes that can be shared and enjoyed by the entire table. The atmosphere is quaint and their outside tables make it a perfect place to enjoy the evening breeze and a good conversation. One of my favorite things about Wineberg is the service – lovely waiters with lovelier free chasers are bound to join your table by the end of night.
Café Noah (Noach Café), 93 Ahad Ha’am St.: Reminiscent of Paris in the 1920s, this coffee shop is frequented by writers, poets and other patrons who come for the good coffee and the free live jazz every Sunday night. A great place to get some work done amongst the undeniably hip.
La Champa, 52 Nachalat Binyamin St./corner Rothchild St.: You cannot possibly go wrong with a bottle of cava, a few disposable wine glasses and the atmosphere of bustling Rothschild. Their essence is mobility - grab a bottle and go sit outside in the street. If you’re hungry, their mini hamburgers are an excellent cava companion.
Hayiriah,11 Malachi Israel Square (across from Rabin Square): This is one of those coffee shops you really just have to stumble upon. It’s inconspicuous yet offers a great twist on the standard Israeli breakfast café. The restaurant offers three different variations of shakshuka with either spinach, beets, or the tomato favorite. If you’re not that hungry you can enjoy something off of their daily tasters menu. Everything is refreshingly reasonably priced – I’ll even go so far as to say cheap – yet the standard is wonderfully maintained.
Café George, 93 Yehuda Halevi St.: The crème de la crème of this restaurant/coffee shop is the ever-changing art decorating their walls. Every three weeks the café allows a different artist to display his or her work, providing both a diverse atmosphere and a stage for new and local talent. Live jazz usually entertains one night a week.
I’ll leave you with a few friendly tips from a local:
- Unless you happen to love being pushed, shoved, suffocated, and waiting in line for an hour, don’t go out on a Friday night. Ever.
- Find your favorite place and frequent often. There is nothing Tel Aviv cafés cherish more than to spoil their best costumers.
- Walk, walk, walk. You’re bound to stumble upon a gem – the city is brimming with them. They just have to be discovered.
* The Hebrew word “kamptzan” means someone who is stingy or economizes.