The best street food restaurants in Haifa
If you're looking for a dose of nostalgia, and a good Mom & Pop eatery that has stood the test of time, then this is a must visit in Haifa's lower city. From the storefront born out of their legendary bourekas cart, Avi Alhades continues his family's tradition of providing the city with his hearty bourekas. They’re kept warm on the cart's plancha, and served up to order alongside a slow stewed egg, pickles and a sprinkling of zaatar spice. Try the signature warm Bulgarit cheese version, which oozes out of the soft and flaky handmade phyllo dough as you take a bite. Other flavors include: cheese and spinach, potato, and mushroom, which are all delicious in their own rite. Stop by in the early morning hours and you will get to watch the bourekas being rolled out by hand at the back counter. A mesmerizing foodie experience in and of itself, in this humble, yet historical spot.
For a restaurant that wants you to feel as if you are walking into your grandmother’s kitchen when you step through the door, Meir’s Ptiliot fits the bill. The product of a lifelong dream of owner Dror Meir, the ptiliot (the wick that fuels the original slow cooker) contain much more love than you would ever think possible. Five homemade dishes are featured each day (Tuesdays are homemade couscous day so plan accordingly). Standard in the rotation are some of the best ‘ktzitzot’ (beef meatballs) you will ever eat, stuffed peppers, slow cooked chicken thighs and soothing kubbe soup. Dishes are served alongside an array of complimentary sides and salads, and thick slices of fluffy white bread. Homemade spicy and savory sauces are to die for, and suit all tastes. Meals end with a complimentary tea made from homemade jam, served with ’butter’ cookies. Warm reception and hospitality throughout rounds out the entire experience.
If you want uncontested, no-frills shawarma that melts in your mouth, then Shawarma Emil is your winner in all categories. Upon ordering, meat is shaved with care off the hand-woven kebab, that is slow roasted each day until succulent and tender. The meat, a combination of fresh veal and sheep, is kept moist with the standard slab of lamb fat adhered to the top. Emil’s takes it one step further and lets the rendering fat roll down the meat and onto a bed of onions and tomatoes that are later featured in your pita. Top it off with fresh parsley and homemade sauces, pickled mango (amba) and tahini, and crunch on a pungent turmeric marinated cauliflower pickle to cleanse the palate between meaty bites.
When you turn the corner and happen upon the chartreuse colored shop with the face of the smiling man, you know that you’ve found Haifa’s #1 falafel joint. Although most people don’t just stop in accidently, their cult following hasn’t changed the smile or the hospitality one receives inside. Falafel balls of the green variety are laced with heaps of fresh parsley and cilantro (hence the choice of store front colors), and fried fresh to order. Eat your complimentary ball of falafel that’s been dunked in tahini sauce to whet your appetite while you peer over the counter and watch your lunch come to life. Falafel balls bubble away in a hot bath of pristine oil until golden and tender. The family owned and run legend from Haifa’s neighbouring famed Wadi NisNas neighbourhood has now held its own in Haifa’s new downtown.
The Mahroum family of Konditora HaMizrach (The Eastern Bakery) brought their famous recipes from the streets of Nazareth to Haifa over 35 years ago, and have been satiating the sweet tooth of the locals ever since. A variety of ‘baklauwa’ are made fresh on the premises and are stacked along the front counter on awesomely large metal trays. The shredded phyllo, called ‘kadaif’, is still brought in fresh each day from Nazareth, and is used to create their signature ‘knaffe’ – a dish of the buttery strands, that are stained an orange hue, and baked atop a bed of fresh goat’s cheese, then drenched in the sweetest of syrups. Have just one bite, and you will understand the demand for this mouth-watering dish. Try the malabi pudding if you crave a hit of perfumed rosewater with your Arabic sweets.
Inspired by a quick fix from a Moroccan mother trying to feed her hungry children on a Friday afternoon, these meatball sandwiches are divine. Chicho serves four varieties of their saucy meatballs: their signature beef, lamb, chicken and fish, and they’re all sizzling hot, straight from the pot in which they were simmered. Pick which ones you desire, and they’ll be stuffed into the downy, warmed ‘frena’ bread that is made just for the eatery from an old family recipe, together with your choice of salads and cold sauces. The recipes are grandma’s and the sauces have a modern gourmet twist. Wash it down with the sweetly satisfying vintage sodas, Israeli craft beer on tap or grape flavored arak. Everything is made from fresh ingredients each day, making this traditional soul food not just delicious, but also a healthy treat. Just as Momma would want.
A family friendly establishment by day and a hip hang out by night, this Italian-style pizza parlour is more than just a place to get a great slice. Independent music on the record player and hand-picked Italian beer on tap is the perfect accompaniment to owner Uri’s thin crust handmade pizzas. Sit in the bar seating by the front window and people watch as you overlook the newly renovated Natanzon Street of downtown Haifa or opt to sit at the communal table and participate in the local conversations. Like an old school coffee house for the modern era of pizza-obsessed Israelis, this warm establishment is a bright spot in an already shining area.
Elad Bardicef takes the hummusia to the next level with hummus like you’ve never tasted before. Always made fresh, in small batches, and served warm as it should be, it is exceedingly rich from smooth, creamy tahini and jazzed up with elevated, yet classic toppings such as mashed broad beans, stewed chickpeas, parsley (in this case parsley-pesto) and olive oil. Also try their other Israeli dishes, such as sabich and shakshuka that are plated beautifully, and made with organic and fresh ingredients, yet are still just as affordable as the humbler versions found elsewhere in the city. Made with extra care by an attentive staff, it’s no wonder you’ll be hard pressed to find a stool here most days of the week. The Chasidic charm and cool Israeli attitude only add to the experience, making this an absolute favorite.
These devilishly delicious sandwiches contain all specially made local Israeli ingredients, on handmade buns that are grilled to perfection. If you aren’t worried about kashrut, then go for their signature ‘hot dog’ sandwich with special recipe salami, ‘pastrama’ and cheese, all grilled together, then arranged in a bun that is slathered with mayo and house sauce, and topped off with fresh vegetables. The combination of smoked deli meats will send you singing, and certainly cover any bacon cravings you may be having. But don’t worry if you are vegetarian! The Safta boys have all the bases covered with dreamy veggie and vegan-friendly options, such as egg salad with fried onions (all part of the ‘aruchat eser’ section of the menu) and even a yummy grilled vegetable, avocado and tahini concoction. Inspired by Bracha – another famous Haifa sandwichier – and a lifetime of feeding friends and family with his smokey and savory deli combinations, Owner Shai brings a vintage American-style diner feel to the Haifa streets, and infuses it with a local Israeli spirit, and a penchant for the absolutely delicious.
Look for the endless line of ‘sabich’ sandwich seekers, in a seemingly unassuming corner in upper Haifa, and you have probably found Eyal and his famous food stand. Eyal’s passion for feeding his regulars is evident in watching him serve customers from behind the tiny counter, and from his smiling eyes, as he describes his food. Unlike many in the street food business, he left a life of comfort as a working engineer to carry out his mission of bringing the best sabich to Haifa’s food scene. We’re glad he did, as this Iraqi specialty, comprised of slow roasted egg, sliced, fried eggplant (a perfected recipe), cooked potato, salads and sauces, carries an indescribably comforting feeling. Eyal’s of course features all homemade and fresh ingredients, including his tahini sauce, and all handmade salads, and is topped off with a dash of his secret spice blend (and even a ball of freshly fried falafel if you please). Trust us when we say that sabich has never tasted it better.