A stop at Konditoria HaMizrach offered the opportunity to try Assorted baklava, sweet pastry made with filo dough, honey and assorted nuts. A stop at Konditoria HaMizrach offered the opportunity to try Assorted baklava, sweet pastry made with filo dough, honey and assorted nuts. This shop offers the opportunity to try assorted baklava, sweet pastry made with filo dough, honey and assorted nuts. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

This Mediterranean city's revival starts with food

A tour of this rising culinary destination yields a world of flavors and a generous helping of local favorites.

Despite its pristine beaches and stunning Baha'i Gardens, Haifa, Israel's third most populous city, has long been overlooked by tourists in favor of Jerusalem's history and Tel Aviv's culture.

That's beginning to change. A concerted effort to rejuvenate downtown has brought a decidedly different vibe to the historically industrial area. Artists have moved in, and new, modern buildings now co-mingle with Ottoman architecture to make for a unique juxtaposition.

Jessica Halfin, who moved to the city a decade ago from New Hampshire, saw the city's transformation as a great opportunity to highlight its burgeoning food scene. So she started a street food tour.

"The main objective behind Haifa's new revival is attracting people to come spend time in the city, and what better way than having an amazing selection of great food to choose from," Halfin told From The Grapevine.

"This is especially true for the downtown area – whether it's the newest chef restaurant, or the street food establishments that have been serving here for over 50 years, there's no denying that you can get a fantastic meal in Haifa."

From The Grapevine recently took one of Halfin's tours to see for ourselves what all the fuss is about.

Bourekas — a savory cheese pastry — are a popular street food in Israel and a stop at this shop is one of the first of the tour.Bourekas – savory cheese pastries – are a popular street food in Israel, and a stop at this shop is one of the first of the tour. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Bourekas are traditionally served in Israel with a tomato relish, pickles and a roasted egg.Bourekas are traditionally served in Israel with a tomato relish, pickles and a roasted egg. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Hummus Eliyahu is a new establishment that has quickly gained a following. A dish comes with pita, pickles and an onion for dipping.Hummus Eliyahu is a new establishment that has quickly gained a following. A dish for dipping into the hummus comes with pita, olives and an onion. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Everywhere you go in downtown Haifa it seems like modern architecture looms large. The Sail Tower, seen here in the background, was completed in 2002.Everywhere you go in downtown Haifa modern architecture looms large. The Sail Tower, seen in the background, was completed in 2002. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Meir’s Ptiliot offers a rotating menu of homemade food including these meatballs that would give an Italian grandmother a run for her money.At the newly opened Meir’s Ptiliot, a rotating menu of homemade food included meatballs that would give an Italian grandmother a run for her money. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Libira is a popular bar modelled after American craft breweries. The beers sold in house are also made in house. Libira is a popular bar modelled after American craft breweries. The beers sold in house are also made in house. The modest early lunch crowd gives way to a packed house at night. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Ordering a flight of half pints allows you to taste all the beers on tap — a bitter ale, pilsner, stout, wheat beer and Belgian ale. Ordering a flight of half pints allows you to taste all the beers on tap – a bitter ale, pilsner, stout, wheat beer and Belgian ale. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Shawarma, various meats grilled on a spit, is one of the most popular street foods in Israel. Usually made of chicken or lamb, Shawarma Emil, an institution in Haifa, makes one that consists of a mix of veal and sheep.Shawarma – meat grilled on a spit (usually served in a pita) – is one of the most popular street foods in Israel. It's usually made of chicken or lamb. Shawarma Emil, an institution in Haifa, makes one that consists of a mix of veal and lamb. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

The falafel being made at Falafel HaWadi Mishel is considered amongst the best in all of Israel.The falafel being made at Falafel HaWadi Mishel is considered among the best in Israel. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Jessica Halfin started Haifa Street Food Tours because she wanted to expose visitors to the culinary delights of the city.Jessica Halfin started Haifa Street Food Tours because she wanted to expose visitors to the culinary delights of the city. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

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