A Family Brewcation in Tel Aviv

Beer and the Beach in Tel Aviv, Israel

Every 15 minutes or so the sun’s stinging heat nudged me to shift my über-pale legs back under the shade of the umbrella. The shade that was slowly creeping away as the afternoon wore on. A white-ish gray haze from the heat gave a false sense of security as to just how brutal the sun actually was. But people like me shouldn’t be trying to catch any of the Tel Aviv beach rays. Eventually it got to the point where I just threw my cheap Israeli-flag-emblazoned beach towel over my legs despite the fact that it was going on 100˚F outside.

Tel Aviv from Jaffa

The view of Tel Aviv from Jaffa

The water was eerily still. It was as though the heat and the sun had sucked the energy out of the sea. Even beyond the manmade breakwaters: stillness. I watched from behind my polarized sunglasses as person after person entered the water: groups of teenage girls wearing bikini tops and denim shorts (wtf?); lone middle-aged men sporting budgie-smugglers and loads of chest hair; a couple of Jewish Bubbes whose voices carried across the water and were most obviously living at least part time in New York. Each person slowly waded into the water, made it out to about waist deep and then just. stood. there. Like the water wasn’t even there.

Wee Man and our friends’ daughter frolicked as only toddlers do in the shallow water. Neither sun nor oppressive heat could slow them down; the only source of energy in the Med. I smiled watching them. I went to adjust my towel a bit when a sudden shadow appeared, blocking the sun.

“Ahh, here I am.” A man’s voice said. Our beach waiter. He hands me a cup: Tuborg. Brewed with a red color, fuller body and a sturdier maltiness for the Israeli market. He then sets down cups of ice water, their sole use being for us to put our beers in so they stay chilled in the heat. We tipped him well.

It’s not the most exciting beer in the world but with my family, my friends, and beach-side drink service for our Israeli holiday I don’t need anything else. Except for maybe some SPF 1 billion.

How we did a Family Brewcation in Tel Aviv, Israel

With a chill vibe, plenty of sun and great beaches, we–of course–treated this Tel Aviv trip as a beach and beer vacation. The somewhat extreme heat and humidity made it so that we had to lower our expectations as to what we were able to go see. We had hopes of making it to Jerusalem or the Dead Sea but between Wee Man and our friends’–with whom we were traveling–two small daughters, we didn’t think they could handle a day of sightseeing. So, we stuck to the beach, had drinks served to us and awesome food instead. A lesson in being grateful for what I have instead of missing what I don’t.

Since we collectively had two small children and an infant we booked an Airbnb just a couple of blocks off the beach. While researching where to stay in Tel Aviv, we ultimately decided on a place with a fantastic kitchen, a huge balcony with a sea view and enough beds. We called it “The Pimp Option.”  While the kitchen and balconies were, indeed, fabulous, I’m not listing it here because–truthfully–Hubs and I didn’t have the greatest experience. We ended up sleeping on a super hard, Ikea-quality sofabed in a makeshift bedroom for the five nights we were there. It was not pleasant. In its defense, our friends had a decent bedroom with an ensuite and the kids had proper beds as well. Yet, with the pimp price, we deserved better. It’s these sort of surprises and lack of consideration that has turned me off of Airbnbs if I can help it.

Roasted Israeli Cauliflower with Amber Ale

Roasted Cauliflower with Ha’dubim Brewery Love Ale

Nevertheless, if we hadn’t gone the Airbnb route we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have this memorable experience…

Since small children and the fine-dining extravaganzas we love don’t go too well together, we decided to bring the chef to us. After a bit of research and a referral from someone else, I got in touch with Aliya Fastman from Citrus & Salt Cooking (info below.) This American ex-pat specializes in classic and modern Israeli food and offers cooking classes and private chef services. We were just wanting to be fed so I asked Aliya for a menu of all the good Israeli stuff. A few WhatsApp messages, a paid deposit and boom…see you in Tel Aviv!

We were presented, family style, a BEAST FEAST. And, of course, I had to do a beer pairing with it.

We had everything from stuffed grape leaves (awesome, were lovely with an amber ale) to roasted cauliflower (my favorite Israeli side dish) and an incredible Moroccan-influenced chicken pie called Pastilla (which is garnished with powdered sugar, of all things.) And, oh hey, what’s this?! SHE GAVE ME THE RECIPE TO SHARE WITH YOU. Holla!

Aliya was organized, super friendly and made awesome food. And the kids watched cartoons and nibbled on whatever. I mean, I think they ate that night. So, if you love exploring food on your travels but have small kids, definitely consider looking up a private chef in your destination. It’s what pimp balconies (and cartoons) are for.

My tips for a family brewcation in Tel Aviv, Israel

  1. If you think you might need to, use the restroom when you get off the plane. Passport control can take quite awhile and you’ll be in a massive queue/gaggle of people.
  2. Book an airport transfer. Trying to navigate the public transportation system (which is mostly in Hebrew) or driving in a rental car is not the way you want to start your beach holiday. Just spring for it!
  3. Don’t hesitate to go for dinner a bit later if you’re enjoying the beach. In this part of the world you won’t raise as many eyebrows having the little ones out as late as you are comfortable.
  4. Saturdays are the day of rest in Israel. Expect most things to close around 4-5pm for Shabbat on Friday and not open again until after sunset Saturday–if at all.
  5. Foldable electric scooters are the mode of transportation of choice in the city. Download the Bird or Lime apps to find the closest available scooter near you, take it where you need to go, and then leave it for the next person. Word of warning: nobody seems to be coming to pick up the ones that need to be recharged during Shabbat so pickins’ are slim during that time. Don’t plan on that like we did or you’ll end up walking!
  6. My blond-haired, blue-eyed son (and our friends’ daughter as well) was a bit of a rock star, especially among the muslim population. He was given candy, fruit, kisses and choices of music on the radio several times. Just roll with it if your child seems ok with it. It’s just the way it is.
  7. If you want to sit in the beach chairs at the beach and/or get an umbrella, you have to go find the machine near the entrance to the beach and purchase a ticket for it–not unlike a parking ticket. You show this to the staff working the beach and they’ll hook you up. Tip them and they’ll take good care of you/make people move so your group can sit together if necessary.
  8. Double check the jellyfish report (umm, in Hebrew) before you head to the beach. We were there in late May and didn’t see a single one (in fact, didn’t even know anything about it until the last evening of our trip!) but they can really be an issue in July, apparently, and the water unswimmable for the little ones.
  9. If you do swim and get stung by a jellyfish, the lifeguard shacks have vinegar. Or, you could always see if Joey is around to pee on you.
  10. It’s not only common, but it’s culturally expected to haggle in the markets in Jaffa. If kids haggle, they seem to get a better deal.

One last note: We’re not entirely sure why they do it but, chances are, if you’re out on a night having drinks your server will come and offer you some shots. Hubs and our friend felt very VIP when they got one when they were out only to find out that us ladies got them when we were out too. We were offered everything from Blue Malibu to Arak. And who am I to turn any one of them down?

Wee Man and I at the Blue Flag Beach, Tel Aviv

Me, Wee Man and the Bograshov Beach, Tel Aviv

What to drink, eat and see in Tel Aviv, Israel

Some Great Spots for Beer in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

The Dancing Camel
Hata’asiya 12, Tel Aviv
Israel
Phone: +972 3-624-2783

The only microbrewery within the city of Tel Aviv, the Dancing Camel has been brewing craft beer in Israel since 2006. The attached pub pours 7-8 of their beers on tap and has several others in bottle. Unfortunately, they were out of the Doc’s Green Leaf IPA when we were there but had passed up the opportunity to buy it at Beer & Beyond earlier (so look for it there.) The service is super friendly (umm…all were American ex-pats), knowledgeable and pours a good beer. The pretzels were the biggest I had ever seen.

Open 5pm-1am, Sunday-Wednesday,
5pm-2am, Thursday, 12pm-5:30pm, Friday
8pm-Midnight, Saturday

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers possible but need to be carried up a few stairs.

Tel Aviv

Beer Bazaar Shuk HaCarmel
36 Yishkon, Shuk HaCarmel, Tel Aviv
Israel
Phone: +972 3-504-9537

Beer Bazaar in the Shuk HaCarmel has probably the coolest atmosphere for beer in the city. While their namesake beers–brewed offsite to supply the city’s bars–are great (we loved the Bhindi IPA!) and the service friendly and helpful, it was sitting outdoors among the market stalls watching stray cats meander by and trying to make sense of the Hebrew words etched in the stone houses that made the experience what it was.

Open: 11am-Last customer, Sunday-Thursday
10am-4pm, Friday
7:00pm-Last customer, Saturday

  • Probably better just for adults

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers possible (outside)

Tel Aviv

Beer & Beyond
Yigal Alon St 159, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Israel
Phone: +972 74-702-6800

Definitely the best selection of Israeli (and international) craft beer in the city. The staff here is incredibly knowledgeable about beer and were very patient and enthusiastic in helping me find beers that would go well with the private dinner we had at our place. And not that you’d need it–if you’re just visiting for the weekend–but they have a great supply of homebrewing ingredients. This is a bottle shop.

Open: 9am-9pm, Sunday and Thursday
11am-7pm, Monday-Wednesday
9am-4pm, Friday
Closed Saturday

Jaffa

Beer Bazaar Jaffa
7 Olei Zion Street, Jaffa
Israel
Phone: +972 3-757-8807

Another Beer Bazaar outlet, this one is just steps away from the market in Jaffa. The service was exceptionally friendly and accommodating to the children. We arrived a bit early for lunch and they kept the kids occupied with popcorn. Large outdoor tables make this a suitable place for groups and/or kids. The beer is fresh, poured clean and served well by the enthusiastic staff. You can buy bottles to takeaway here too.

Open 11-2am, Sunday-Thursday
10am-4pm, Friday
Hour after sunset until last customer, Saturday

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers accommodated

Tel Aviv

Tiv Ta’am In the City
Frishman St 13, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Israel
Phone: +972 3-609-9800

This is a small, somewhat cramped local grocery store but I found a decent selection of local Israeli craft beer in here (as well as some of the big Belgians and Germans.) They have a good selection of some of the more widely-known breweries like Ha’dubim and Jem’s. Sold both shelf and refrigerator temperature, this is a good spot to grab some at a cheaper price than in restaurants and bars.

Open: 8am-11pm, Daily

Tel Aviv

Mike’s Place
Retsif Herbert Samuel St 90, Tel Aviv-Yafo, 6343125
Israel
Phone: +972 3-510-6392

Ok, this is not a great beer place. But, if you’re looking for live music, American food and sports on TV right across from the beach, you’ll find that–and Lagunitas IPA on tap–here. It’s an institution!

Open: 11am-3am, Daily

  • Children welcome

  • Children’s Menu

  • Strollers possible (outside)

The Dancing Camel Brewing Co. Tel Aviv

Some Great Spots for Food in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Salva Vida
Hayarkon 88 , Tel Aviv
Israel
Phone: +972 053-6111497

With a kitchen headed by a former Michelin-starred chef, Salva Vida is a must-stop in Tel Aviv. Its beautiful location gives diners an amazing view of the Bograshov Beach while enjoying some flipping awesome food like the Blue Crab Macaroni and Cheese or local-catch Drum Fish. The beer menu is limited but a Malka Blonde Ale hits the spot.

Children are absolutely doted on here.

Open: 7am-12pm, 6-11pm Daily

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers could be parked on the sidewalk.

Tel Aviv

Shakshukia
94 Ben Yehuda St., Tel Aviv 63435
Israel
Phone: +972 3-522-3433

Shakshoukaaaaa! The best shakshouka I tasted in Tel Aviv was here at Shakshukia. You’re able to choose your own level of heat, doneness of your eggs and your meat/vegetarian option. So, if you don’t like it–it’s pretty much your fault. The service here is super friendly and efficient. They also have a variety of beer from a local nano-brewer who only supplies a few accounts (the IPA was nice!)

This is how you do a beer brunch in Tel Aviv.

Open: 12-4pm, 6-10pm, Monday-Thursday
11am-4pm, Friday
Closed Saturday

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers accommodated outside

Tel Aviv

North Abraxas
40 Lillienblum St., Tel Aviv 6513319
Israel
Phone: +972 3-516-6660

Possibly one of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv, North Abraxas is a restaurant which celebrates food in its simplest form. Think the most flavorful green beans you’ve ever had served to you in scrunched up paper or a whole fish roasted with tomatoes and onions. Relaxed yet upmarket, indoors or out, this is the place to go.

Ignore the beer here, this is a place for Israeli wine.

Open: 12-4:30pm, 6-Midnight, Daily

  • Not particularly child-friendly

Tel Aviv

Citrus & Salt
HaNegba St 15, Giv’atayim, 5345011
Israel
Phone: +972 53-334-6861

This is a special treat: hire your own private chef or take a cooking course! Fronted by founder, Aliya Fastman, Citrus & Salt Cooking specializes in classic and Israeli fusion cuisine. As mentioned above, the menu is personalized to your choosing but no matter what you choose, expect loads of flavors and tastes. And a sparkling clean kitchen when you’re done.

Open: Hours vary and by appointment

  • Children welcome

  • Child-friendly

  • Children’s menu

Jaffa

Abu Hassan
Ha-Dolfin St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Israel
Phone: +972 3-682-0387

Abu Hassan is probably the most famous and best place for hummus in Tel Aviv, if not Israel. Expect long lines and waiting for a table but the experience of smushing up next to working locals and hungry tourists alike makes it all worth it.

Open: 8am-3pm, Sunday-Friday
Closed Saturday

  • Children welcome

  • Child-friendly

Shakshukia Tel Aviv with an IPA

Some Great Things To Do in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

The Beaches

With a huge stretch of coastline, it’s important to note that there are many “beaches” stretching along the length of the city–each with different facilities. We liked and frequented Bograshov Beach with it’s really shallow waters and centralized location just across from the US Embassy. Just to the north is Frishman Beach, which we liked for its play structures more suitable for younger children.

Jaffa

Markets and Old City

Getting out to Jaffa was easiest by taxi. They dropped us off at the sea wall just outside the entrance to the port which gave us stunning views of the city. Directly across from the small port is a staircase leading up to the old city (our friends had to ditch the stroller.) We had fun climbing through the ancient alleyways and walking among the old buildings. We made our way down and around to the flea markets and had an enjoyable time–made only better by finding beer nearby.

Tel Aviv

The Marina

About a 15-minute walk from Bograshov Beach is the Tel Aviv Marina. The walk along the famous promenade is lively with bikes and scooters threading their way through pedestrians. Passing by a couple of outdoor gyms at the muscle beaches and ice cream shops, we finally made it to the marina. While it’s a bit small, it’s still fun to watch the boats come in and out–especially when they’re small yachts loaded with drunk people. We had a nice lunch at Fortuna del Mar, with a front row seat to a woman twerking in a tiny bikini.

Historic Port of Jaffa near Tel Aviv

We absolutely loved our long weekend in Tel Aviv. Considering we had young children and a baby with us we didn’t get to drink ALLLL the beer, but that just means we need to go back. So, if you’ve got any tips–especially beery ones–for Tel Aviv or the rest of the country, please let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,

Maggie

Print Recipe
Pastilla
This recipe for Moroccan-inspired Pastilla was given to us by Aliya Fastman of Citrus & Salt Cooking in Tel Aviv, Israel. This is a chicken pie made with cinnamon, almonds and garnished with powdered sugar.
Citrus & Salt Cooking Pastilla Recipe
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Israeli, Moroccan
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Israeli, Moroccan
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Citrus & Salt Cooking Pastilla Recipe
Instructions
  1. Cook the chicken skin side down to release its fat. Continue cooking until the chicken is almost done at which time you will add in the onions, garlic and ginger and cook until the thighs are golden brown. Take out the chicken and shred it with your fingers or two forks until it is in small pieces.
  2. Add the chicken back into the pan with the onions, garlic and ginger after spooning out excess oil into a bowl that has collected from the chicken fat.
  3. At this point you will add in the spices, almonds and sugar and sear the mixture for a few minutes while the flavor comes together and the chicken finishes cooking (about 2-5 minutes). Taste the mixture and adjust.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the eggs, mixing well and fast to avoid clumps. Cook until soft but not runny (this is important as it binds the ingredients without moistening the phyllo dough too much.)
  5. Layer the phyllo dough in a greased pan (six bottom layers), brushing chicken fat or oil lightly between each layer. Add filling and layer the top of the pie with the overlapping dough. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Garnish with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

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