Gourmet and international cuisine are fairly new to Israel as prior to the early 1980’s; it was politically incorrect to splurge on upscale dining delights in the egalitarian, practical atmosphere prevalent in the fast-developing Middle East. The emphasis was on fresh, healthy foods mostly cooked kosher (based on ancient Judaic laws for cleanliness). While there are still plenty of options for the religiously devout, modern-day Israel’s upscale scene has matured into a fusion of Mediterranean, French culinary treasures and traditional Jewish recipes. International and Israeli restaurants of all standards and prices are found in every town and city, with the best in the resorts, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Bars and Pubbing in Israel

The Israeli style of nightlife is more about wine and small plates or a good meal than it is about late night bars or night-long pub crawls. Locals are more likely to grab a hookah and hangout in a neighbor’s backyard than go out and get crazy. However, there are still a few attractive European-style clubs and beachfront sports in the major cities and tourism hubs, the best of which, in Jerusalem, tend to be in the upscale hotels. Other options include the cafés along Ben Yehuda Street and several good haunts in the Old City including the trendy Artel Jazz Club (Heleni Hamalka 9, Jerusalem) which serves Israeli pub grub against a background of lively jazz and good beer.

Dancing at least several hours is a Friday special at the Campus Club (30 Haoman Street, Jerusalem). Although it only opens on Fridays, it’s the most popular club in the city. Haoman 17 is on the same street and also has a great reputation. For a classier, more upscale experience, Chakra (18 Shlomtzion, Jerusalem) is located in the city center and offers a huge variety of cocktails and a great selection of spirits in an elegant ambiance.

For a much livelier scene complete with beach parties, Tel Aviv is the place to head to, with the legendary MASH pub (275 Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv) offering music, a great atmosphere and a wide choice of draught beers, wines and spirits. Molly Bloom’s (32 Mendele Street) is the city’s Irish pub, offering Guinness, Irish food and music every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For clubbing, try Comfort 13 (13 Comfort Street, Tel Aviv) with its two dance floors, massive bar and traditional Israeli parties every night until 3:00 a.m. or later.

If you’re based in Eilat, the Three Monkeys pub (Royal Beach Promenade, Eilat) has the best reputation in town for music, food and location and, for clubbing, the major hotels have it all. Platinum (King Solomon’s Palace Hotel, Eilat) is a favorite in Israel for its spectacular laser lights and sound effects. Eilat’s most informal offerings are centered around the beaches, with the Dolphin Reef, (beachside, Eilat) the scene of dancing on the waterfront Monday, Thursday and Friday nights.

Dining and Cuisine in Israel

Dining in Jerusalem doesn’t get any better than at Arcadia, (Givat Ram, Jerusalem) with its sublimely inventive, but never glitzy Mediterranean/French dishes served in an elegant setting. The Olive Leaf (Sheraton Hotel, Jerusalem) is the top of the list with regards to hotel restaurants, with everything prepared according to kashrut law and glorious views over the ocean. Machneyuda (10 Beit Yaakov Street, Jerusalem) is lively, fun and fast becoming the place to go for its ultra-fresh ingredients in Israel.

The eclectic selection of Tel Aviv eateries ranges from fine dining haunts to bistros and traditionally Israeli falafel and hummus joints found everywhere from the center of the city and its port to the suburban districts. The choice is huge, as is the price range. The long-established and charming Orna and Ella’s Bistro (33 Shenkin Street, Tel Aviv) serves delicious dishes with an Italian flavor at value-for-money prices and Jaffa’s Ali Karavan (1 Dolphin Street) is famous city-wide for its creamy, fresh hummus, some of the best in Israel. For fine dining buffs, Catit (4, Heichal Hatalmud, Tel Aviv), set in the trendy Neve Tzedek district, serves chef Meir Adoni’s innovative creations.

Family visitors to Eilat will love the quirky Red Sea Star Underwater Restaurant (next to Le Meridien Hotel, Eilat), set 16 ft below the surface with its viewing windows showcasing coral, marine life and good food. For exquisite seafood dishes and a romantic atmosphere, the Last Refuge Restaurant (Coral Beach, Eilat) is off the beaten path and worth the journey for its soup, spicy crab and lobster dishes.