When Tel Avivians refer to the shuk (market), they mean Carmel. It’s usually swarming with people, particularly on Fridays, the first day of the Israeli weekend. Skip the central thoroughfare and explore the backstreets, where some of the best bargains and eats hide out. The timid can also opt for a walking tour of the market, like this excellent one from Delicious Israel.
The market was founded by Yemenite Jews in 1920; before long, the city’s mayor caught wind of its popularity, named it “HaCarmel”, which simply means “The Carmel”, and invested in increasing trade and maintaining the space. Supermarkets arrived in 1958 and severely reduced market trade, but the past 15 years have seen a revival, probably because the market ticks so many current foodie trends -- it’s heavy on the veggies, which are seasonal and local, and there’s an abundance of traditional Jewish and Middle Eastern dishes, as well as creative, contemporary takes.
Eat at buzzy holes-in-the-wall like M25, an offshoot of one of Israel’s best butchers just a stone’s throw away, with a menu that changes daily. Don’t miss the arias -- a deep fried pita stuffed with lamb. Or, at a classic street food spot like Shlomo and Doron, an 80-year-old family-owned hummusia (hummus-only eatery).
Drink at grubby-cool bars that open after the market closes, crammed with insufferably beautiful tanned locals, like Salon Berlin. As with most of the city’s nightlife, the setting is more flip-flops than heels.
Talk to Uzi Eli, a Yemenite medicine man who sells generation-old cures utilizing the etrog (citron). Highlights include a citron-heavy spray for acne and citron-gat (a natural, Yemenite stimulant that’s illegal in the U.S.) juice that claims to boost virility. Uzi is a fuzzy-chested, self-proclaimed mystic, and brazen oversharer. You don’t have to be eccentric to be a shuk vendor, but it helps.