The Jews may have wandered in the desert for 40 years facing challenging circumstances, but being a modern wanderer in northern Israel has some definite perks. With stunning views, a laidback vibe and an abundance of regional produce, including cheese, olives and wine, the North has so much to offer. The pandemic inadvertently incubated an abundance of creative and communal energy, resulting in eateries that offer so much more than just a meal. So if you are ready for an edible and cultural adventure, these five off the beaten path cafes are calling your name.
Elements Cafe is a mystical hole-in-the-wall eatery. Zev Padway is the creative and culinary force behind this cafe, making vegan and gluten-free food for the body and the soul.
Though the menu changes with the seasons, Element’s Injera Platter is a mainstay. This dish is the ultimate Ethiopian, Indian and Middle Eastern fusion. Traditional Ethiopian injera, a flatbread made with teff flour, is topped with generous helpings of spicy tomato chutney, hummus, Israeli salad and shiro wat, a thick, creamy Ethiopian chickpea stew made with Zev’s perfectly blended berebere 13-spice mix. Other staples include Zev’s famous burritos, garden salads and sprouted savoury seed crackers with dips.
No meal at Elements is complete without dessert. My personal favorite is Element’s coconut-vanilla-chai ice cream, rich and creamy, and spiced with freshly hand-ground cardamom.
5 Kikar HaMeginim, Safed
Monday-Thursday 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. or by reservation. Kosher Mehadrin.
Jacob and Tal Hertz dreamed of creating the perfect place for a date, and their vision came to life with Al Havadi, a Friday morning pop-up cafe nestled in the rolling hills of Hoshaya, amidst beautiful olive groves.
If the breathtaking view doesn’t immediately reel you in, the menu sure will. Ingredients are hand-picked to showcase regional artisanal foods, including local Fresco coffee, Tealzreal teas and an assortment of breads and cheeses. But Al Havadi’s essential ingredient is their own boutique Lavi olive oil, made with manually harvested heirloom Souri olives — and it’s a game changer. Both their sweet and savory baked goods are made exclusively with olive oil and baked on the spot in a tabun (clay oven). Highlights include a chocolate calzone with soft, rich dough and focaccias sprinkled with camembert and pears marinated in white wine.
Friday 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (hours subject to change in the summer). Kosher.
Tachanat Ruach is a beloved cafe by day and a hip music venue at night. This family friendly community start-up bursts with personality. Wild murals covering the building’s exterior reflect its colorful inside, which not only boasts tasty food but one of the best English libraries in Northern Israel.
Their divine salads and rustic sandwiches, brimming with carmelized beets, zucchini pesto, roasted peppers and goat cheese, are a vegetable bonanza. The ever-changing daily special never disappoints, nor does their handmade chocolate marzipan.
It’s about simplicity and quality: At the end of the day, Tachanat Ruach is a group of good people making good food.
1 Kikar Ben Gurion, Kiryat Tivon
Sunday to Friday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (night concerts vary by week).
Caffe B’Rotem is the ultimate desert oasis, located in the small ecological town of Rotem. Adelle and Chef Revital, neighbors with a shared vision, created this one-of-a-kind cafe. The panoramic view of Jordan, the Jordan Valley and the Gilboa mountain range is a striking combination. Any stress melts away in the clean air, replaced by delicious food and good vibes.
All dishes are made in-house, elevated by high-quality, fresh ingredients. Don’t miss their “Kornelius,” a cornbread with melted gouda and a creamy sauce with mushrooms and spinach. And you can’t go wrong with their handmade pasta dishes, including truffle ravioli and beet gnocchi. For dessert, their much sought out “Lemon Special” combines mascarpone with lemon vanilla cream over a spelt cookie and almond pie crust, topped with a tart berry sauce.
This is the destination cafe you will not regret visiting.
Rotem, Jordan Valley
Sunday-Wednesday 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Kosher Mehadrin.
If you’re passionate about both art and food, Makom Hashraa is your dream cafe, located in a three-story historical Templar building with a sprawling garden. This cafe is a living art collective, including open art studios, curated art galleries, a quaint kitchen and an unusual basement, home to an eclectic art store and indoor seating.
The stimulating art makes you stop and think, but the food makes you smile. Sandwiches with house-cured gravlax, cashew pesto, rocket greens and avocado have humorous names like “This Is Not Norway” and “Avocado Has Too Short a Season.” Their homemade cakes, however, steal the show. You can’t go wrong with a white chocolate pistachio cream cake or their nostalgic plum-banana marble cake.
3 Alonim, Alonei Abba
Monday-Wednesday & Friday 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-11 p.m. (check the website for upcoming workshops and times).