Top five

The top five must-visit day-drinking spots in Tel Aviv

From Allenby Street to Jaffa, charming eateries in the White City offer an enticing afternoon activity of drinking and lounging

Nina Cafe (photo credit: Courtesy, Nina Cafe Hotel Suites)
Nina Cafe (photo credit: Courtesy, Nina Cafe Hotel Suites)

Pub crawls are so blasé. Binge drinking was in circa 1992. Day drinking is where it’s at these days.

Alcoholic beverages during the day even make the end-of-summer doom seem insignificant, so long as you can start your weekend (or any day, if you so choose) with leisure and a liquid lunch, lazing over a cold beer, a glass of Cava, or even an Irish coffee.

While Tel Avivians may not be masters of signature brunch drinks like Bloody Marys and mimosas — or be huge fans of happy hours — they certainly make up for it with their knack for turning midday cocktails into an illustrious affair.

A few charming locations across the big, white city bring a new level of respectability to the activity — proving that, while it may be subversive, it no longer wreaks of shadowy existence.

Here are five adorable places aptly suited for “getting your day-drink on” in Tel Aviv.

1. A new eatery (so new it doesn’t don a name yet) at 55 Florentin Street in South Tel Aviv features an open-style kitchen and an open-air bar with stools inside and out. The kitchenette features cheap eats à la a Moroccan grandmother’s kitchen — lots of matbucha (spicy Moroccan tomato salad) and tehina, and omelettes served in skillets and pan-seared pargiot (boneless chicken thighs) — with the ubiquitous Goldstar on tap as well as plenty of arak and other hard liquors.

Lior Broshi's nameless cafe/bar on Florentin Street in south Tel Aviv (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)
Lior Broshi’s nameless cafe/bar on Florentin Street in South Tel Aviv (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)

The cafe was opened less than three months ago by Lior Broshi, an energetic cook and unabashed Miles Davis lover. “It’s an extension of my living room,” Broshi explained about his eatery’s laid-back vibe. Customers will likely hear Neil Young and Bob Dylan blaring during the slow pace of the daytime. Towards the evening, it would most likely be Bitches Brew or Kind of Blue that’s playing in the background.

2. In the heart of picturesque Neve Tzedek sits a street-hugging cafe that is perfect for people-watching (and pretending you’re in Europe). Eliza Zibi’s Nina Cafe at 29 Shabazi Street features tiny, Parisian-esque round tables (perfect for two) that practically spill over into the narrow road. Even in the winter, the red-and-white awning provides coverage which, together with heat lamps, make a warm and festive atmosphere to just sit and let the day unfold.

Who knows, a visit to the idyllic stop may bring you face-to-face with some political bigwigs, much as it did with this writer, who practically shared a table with EU foreign-policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton and her entourage during their pop-in for some beverages.

A view of Nina Cafe (photo credit: Courtesy/Nina Cafe Hotel Suites)
A view of Nina Cafe (photo credit: Courtesy/Nina Cafe Hotel Suites)

The cozy cafe, both chic and demure, is part of one of Tel Aviv’s finest boutique hotels. The walls inside are green and red and the lighting dim, and the music could be anything from Spanish guitar to something more exotic. The menu offers all the basics — from wine and Cava to beers and whiskeys — and features a heavenly hot chocolate made from Nutella.

3. If any Tel Aviv eatery was made for day drinking, it’s probably Bata v’Gariga — “high and low-brush (garrigue).” Situated smack in the center of one of the city’s busiest streets, at 121 Allenby Street, the cafe/bar is incredibly charming. It’s low-key and indie, with the understated allure of a French bistro.

Bata v'Gariga (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)
Bata v’Gariga (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)

In addition to the ever-changing menu (and the fact that it’s open almost around the clock, except from 4-6 a.m.), two of its cocktails are excellent for sharing with friends. One is the Tinto Carafe, which is reminiscent of the Spanish Tinto de Verano and which combines red wine and orange juice over ice in a pitcher. The cafe’s other hallmark drink is Noga Juice — Becherovka (a deliciously bitter hard liqueur), tonic, and lemon.

Opened years ago by Orit Revivo and Alma Fogel, the cafe provides an easy option for how to spend your day. Next week, the cafe’s sister restaurant, Joz v’loz (“almonds and hazelnuts”) at 51 Yehuda Halevi will start serving food and drinks during the day as well. The restaurant — a gem that boasts a quiet, leafy garden, gourmet food, and an extensive wine list — is hidden between the tall office buildings toward Lilienblum and Herzl streets.

4. Benjamin 115, located on the south end of Nahalat Binyamin (No. 115), is likely the kind of place Bruce Springsteen would’ve frequented if he were an Israeli. It’s a working man’s pub-and-luncheonette with a Mizrachi feel. The clientele ranges from young artists to local residents, many of whom are older and come in with their kids and families.

Benjamin 115 (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)
Benjamin 115 (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)

The owner, Liron Lev, opened the bar two years ago. “I like these kinds of places, neighborhood locations, that are for everyone… the kind of place that doesn’t put on airs,” he explained. Indeed, the menu — an assortment of home-made food by his mother, also a cook — includes tasty Moroccan fish in a spicy-tomato sauce, or vegetable couscous. Even the basic chicken fingers and french fries are delicious. Plus, in addition to Goldstar and Heineken, he’s got Staropramen on tap. (The bar only serves kosher-style food, but does not have a kosher certificate.)

5. No longer a secret in Tel Aviv, Margoza, in the heart of the Jaffa flea market, is the perfect place to be idle for a day. (In the winter, heat lamps and a make-shift glass enclosing keep customers warm). The ambience — a mix of narrow alleyways, storied architecture, and the sea breeze from a few blocks away — can make anyone fall in love with this locale.

Live music at Margoza on a Friday afternoon (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)
Live music at Margoza on a Friday afternoon (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/ToI)

Sure, Margoza, located at 3 Rabbi Yohanan Street, doesn’t have anything out of the ordinary about it. Yet, somehow, the bar’s mix of mellow music, wooden tables (dotted with candles at dusk), and no-frills attitude about chilling is contagious. It’s both the kind of place you could go on a date, or catch up with family and close friends, possibly over a Paulaner or a glass of the house red wine. It’s romantic and simple — all that even before their famous happy hour gets underway (from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., it’s “buy one, get one free”).

And, if the casual day drinker decides to roll the festivities into an evening affair (which, given the owners’ track record of throwing street parties, is a distinct possibility), the roast beef sandwich or Balkan bruschetta is highly recommended.

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