If you choose the right restaurants, eating out in Tel Aviv becomes a cultural as well as a culinary experience.
Each of the following restaurants reflects a different aspect of Israeli society and serves far more natives than tourists:
Fuly-Ful, 53 Sheinkin St.
Shosh Davidson opened her tiny, four-table restaurant on artsy Sheinkin Street about two years ago. By the time you read this, she may have expanded, so popular are her generously portioned hummus, tehini, eggplant, olive and nut salads.
Everything is fresh, made each morning by an Israeli Arab from Jaffa. Shosh's knack for serving traditional Middle-Eastern foods in an elegant manner makes this an ideal lunch stop. Ten dollars buys lunch for two.
Osteria da Fiorella, Bograshov and Ben Yehuda streets.
Americans may not go to Tel Aviv for Italian food, but Israelis flock to this excellent restaurant that serves homemade pasta and superb veal dishes. The owners are Italian Israelis who continually experiment with different herb and wine sauces.
Dinner for two, with wine, is less than $20, and the restaurant is within walking distance of most hotels.
Yotvata in the City, Herbert Samuel Boulevard near Frishman Street.
Located in the Negev, about 30 miles north of Eilat, Kibbutz Yotvata is renowned for its prize-winning dairy products. Yotvata in the City turns these fresh-from-the-kibbutz, healthy ingredients into unusually imaginative blintzes (Bulgarian cheese and olive, cheese and raisin, chocolate and nut), pizzas (artichoke-corn) and Yotvata soup (cold yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts and syrup).
Thirst-quenchers include natural guava and mango juice. The noise level is a bit high, but the floor-to-ceiling photos of kibbutz life and Israeli landscapes almost make you feel that you're eating supper in the kibbutz's dining room.
A healthy supper for two runs about $20.
Misada Dag, Jaffa Port, North Gate.
There are lots of expensive, trendy seafood restaurants farther south on the port promenade, but they lack the simple, natural charm — and reasonable prices — of this fish restaurant, an old port-workers' eatery. After touring Jaffa, climb down the stone steps leading to the port and eat lunch with the fishermen.
Outdoor tables overlook the Mediterranean and have a fantastic view of Tel Aviv's seashore and passing boats. Portions are big, prices are small and the owner/waitress is friendly. Best bet is the catch of the day. Enjoy dinner for two for under $25.
Tsion, 28 Peduyim St.
Located on one of the narrow streets that surround the Carmel Market, Tsion is a family-owned restaurant that has been a longtime favorite of Tel Avivians who relish Yemenite food.
Go for a midday dinner and be sure to sit in the back room, which looks like an illustration from "Arabian Nights." Brass-covered tabletops are engraved with flowers and birds, Oriental carpets cover the walls, and hanging beads separate intimate, keyhole-shaped booths.
There's no menu. What the chef cooks varies from day to day. Dinner for two can easily cost $50.