A Vegetarian Journey Through Yaffo

A "shuk-ful" of vegetarian options, featuring local flavor and ingredients, bring Melanie Weiss back to Yaffo again and again. Take a journey through some of the choice options!

For even the most die-hard organic-food lover (read: moi), sometimes a not-quite-certifiable meal, provided it is local, fresh and veggie-friendly, can be a delicious substitute for a wholly organic one. These days, when I am in the mood for such a taste treat, I head down to Yaffo, where an entire shuk-ful of vegetarian options, local in flavor and ingredients, await me. In fact, you could walk for a mere few minutes and hit a number of them, one after another. It will be easy on your feet, though you may need to explore the whole of the city to work off your meal!

One not-to-miss stop is the famous and historic Abulafia. Making mouths happy since 1879, this bakery, just down the street from Yaffo’s famous clock tower, serves a huge variety of hearty goods. Assemble your own sandwich from a variety of cheeses and veggies or go straight for the good stuff—stuffed pastries of the savory sort, known as sambusac. Whether you opt for the potato, the cheese, the pesto or the “pizza” (delicious, but only loosely related to its Italian cousin), ask for an additional egg to make this a rib-sticking snack. The crust is thick, with the perfect crunch—and no grease at all, for those who cannot stand the idea of another bureka.

Next you can head up to Ohev Zion Street, a mere couple of blocks toward the siren song of Dr. Shakshuka’s red awning. These folks have perfected a regional favorite, serving a delicious, savory-but-not-spicy version of the egg-and-tomato classic. Whether you sit inside, among the antique-looking pots and pans, or outside in the covered stone courtyard, you will get a great sense of the historic atmosphere for which Yaffo is famous. Special hint: arrive mid-morning and enjoy Dr. Shakshuka’s breakfast special, which includes not only a sizzling pan of the signature dish, but seven salads (pickled vegetables, spicy stewed eggplant, and much more), bread and a tall glass of lemonade.

If you think you can bear another bite, head north one block and look for Miznon Dani’s hummus shop. True—hummus shops in Yafo are plentiful and generally of standard high quality. Abu Hassan, a.k.a. Ali Karavan, possibly the most famous of all, is a few blocks away; a cousin of Dr. Shakshuka’s, Dr. Hummus, is also nearby. Given that you will barely manage a waddle after the pastry and the shakshuka, Miznon Dani’s will be the easiest to manage. Furthermore, the hummus fuul (fava bean stew)—definitely the recommended version—is unique here, featuring a lighter, creamier hummus and an earthier fuul than many other locations. Enjoy the very informal settings and the various portraits of ancient rabbis.

In addition to being delectable, local and vegetarian, all of these restaurants provide incredibly hearty food at prices that will strike any average Tel Avivi as a steal at twice the price, which means you will have plenty left in your pocket if you want to explore the rest of Jaffa’s incredible market. If nothing tickles your fancy, you can always loop back to Abulafia for an amazing local pastry. In any case, by this point it will be time for dessert