Despite my Iraqi roots, I only recently discovered the wonder of sabich. What is sabich, you ask? A pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahini, Israeli salad, amba (a spicy pickled mango paste), and parsley. Some places even include a potato. It was invented by Iraqi Jews who fled anti-Semitic violence in the 1940s and 1950s. It is traditionally eaten on Shabbat, when no cooking is allowed, as the ingredients can be prepared in advance. In recent years it has also become a popular Israeli fast-food item. But sabich isn’t just about a combination of specific ingredients, it’s also about how it’s constructed. Here are the top five places in Tel Aviv that have mastered the craft of sabich making.
The majority of photographs (aka all the good ones) were taken by the very talented Samantha Bearman. Check out her site!
Tchernichovsky 2, Tel Aviv
Sunday-Thursday (10:00-20:30), Friday (10:00-15:30), Saturday (closed)
While on the more expensive end for sabich, Sabich Tchernichovsky is definitely worth the extra few shekels. This hole-in-the-wall sabich joint makes sabich so delicious that it rivals my grandmother’s. From the moment you walk in, you know you’re in good hands. Despite the ever-existent line, the employees take their time constructing each and every sabich. Each ingredient is layered artfully in the perfect pita, providing the ideal combination of flavors in every bite. The delicious eggplant is thin and crispy, packing a flavorful kick with its unique and unidentifiable seasoning. It combines well with the soft creaminess of the boiled egg and pickled flavor of the amba. Sabich Tchernichovsky also includes red cabbage, a wonderfully crunchy addition to the stuffed pita. You also have the option of ordering your sabich with a cheese that is both gentle and tart, balancing the smoky eggplant and flavorful egg yolk.
Unique feature: They have a sign behind the counter that reads, “No sale of sabich without eggplant”—they’re obviously serious about their sabich but they still have a sense of humor.
Added perk: You can get your sabich in a whole-wheat pita for only a shekel more.
Rashi 22, Tel Aviv
Sunday-Thursday (10:00-22:00), Friday (10:00-1 hour before Shabbat)
16 shekels (sabich), 20 shekels (sabich and lemonade)
Located on a quiet side street off of King George, Ovadia’s Sabich feels like a secret treasure. The walls are painted a deep blue, the woodwork is colored pizza-shop red, and a doorway leading to the kitchen is built within a brick frame, creating an atmosphere that feels like a relaxing bar where you’d go to grab a warm slice of pizza and a cold beer, but way cleaner. Despite its reminiscence of a great local pizza place, Ovadia’s Sabich deals in incredible Iraqi food only.
Their sabich is constructed in a surprisingly thin pita that, even more surprisingly, stayed together quite well and allowed you to really taste all of the ingredients. The eggplant had a great texture and was layered in with crunchy, fresh salad and drizzled with tahini. Not only was the flavor of the sabich itself great, but the aftertaste was amazing, too! With a bar full of stools inside, a few tables outside, and an incredibly friendly staff, I have no doubt that Ovadia’s Sabich gets very busy during rush hours.
Unique feature: They make delicious fresh lemonade and offer a sabich-lemonade combo for 20 shekels.
Added perk: They have well-seasoned and perfectly-cooked vegetable ktzitzot (little fried vegetable patties).
Frishman 42, Tel Aviv
Sunday-Thursday (until midnight), Friday (until an hour before Shabbat), Saturday (opens an hour after Shabbat)
18 shekels (sabich with cheese)
Sabich Frishman tends to be the first place people recommend for sabich. If lines and smell give any hint as to quality, it’s hardly a surprise why. My first sabich ever was actually from Sabich Frishman—if my writing this piece now doesn’t clue you in on how quickly I subsequently fell in love with sabich and how amazing Sabich Frishman must be, I hope it’s now clear.
Despite the ever-growing line behind me, the staff had all the patience in the world in putting together my sabich and talking to me about the ingredients. I watched as the guy behind the counter masterfully stuffed my pita with amba, hummus, salad, parsley, cabbage, egg, cheese and of course, eggplant. There’s a super tiny seating area for those who wish to devour their sabich while they’re fresh, but it’s always crowded. We opted to take our sabich home, where we probably ended up eating just as quickly since it was just so darn good. The texture of the crunchy eggplant with smooth hummus was fantastic and the flavorful egg yolk, fresh salad, and cool cheese only made it better. The tangy amba gave each bite a refreshing and addictive kick, making it impossible to put down.
Unique feature: Its location is fantastic. If, like us, you’d prefer not to wait for a table, you could certainly walk along the beautiful tree-lined Dizengoff Street and enjoy watching people as they dart in and out of the countless stores.
Added perk: Falafel Frishman is located right next door. So, if you’re with someone who would like both sabich and falafel (because let’s be serious, no one would prefer falafel over sabich), you’re all set.
Shlomo HaMelech 1, Tel Aviv
A larger establishment on the corner of King George and Shlomo HaMelech, HaKosem serves up falafel and sabich and has a considerable seating area. Their pita-construction station had huge heaps of tomatoes, cabbage, pickles, and salad. After we placed our orders, the staff gave us all a free falafel ball. We had heard about their amazing falafel, and it didn’t disappoint. We munched on the warm, crispy, delicious falafel, excited to see if their sabich was as good.
For a place whose name means “The Wizard”, their sabich was indeed enchanting—it was full-flavored, with a great balance of all of the traditional sabich ingredients. Unlike in most sabich, you could really taste the parsley in this one. The addition of tangy pickles really put the pita over the top.
Unique feature: HaKosem put falafel in their sabich. While I prefer my sabich without, so as to better taste the eggplant, egg, and amba flavors, their falafel is quite tasty.
Added perk: Seating. Of the sabich establishments in Tel Aviv, HaKosem best combines a large, uncrowded setting with great sabich.
22 Schocken, Tel Aviv (they also recently opened another branch on King George off Allenby)
Sunday – Friday (10:00 – 17:30)
16 shekels in a pita, 21 shekels in a laffa or baguette, 24 shekels in a plate, 10 shekels for a mini
Falafel Gina is a relatively large sabich-enjoyment spot. There are tables both inside and outside and it’s always busy. Despite the red-yellow sidewalk paint that indicates no parking by the curb, cars park precariously all around the restaurant while patrons quickly order their meals. While named for its falafel, the sabich here is solid in more ways than one. Its flavor was good and the pita held up, despite tight ingredient packing. The eggplant was very creamy and had tons of body.
Unique feature: They dress up the falafel balls they give out with a dollop of tahini and parsley so it looks a little like a head with hair.
Added perk: The staff isn’t just friendly, but they’re also incredibly entertaining. The guy who put together our order put on a show of miscellaneous antics throughout our meal.
View the locations of the Top 5 Sabich Restaurants in Tel Aviv here!