People eating dinner inside Herbert Samuel Restaurant in Tel Aviv People eating dinner inside Herbert Samuel Restaurant in Tel Aviv Diners enjoy the delicious fare at Tel Aviv's Herbert Samuel Restaurant. (Photo: Courtesy of Herbert Samuel Restaurant)

What makes for a good culinary travel destination?

According to the folks at Saveur magazine, you can't go wrong with a foodie tour of Tel Aviv.

If your vacation planning revolves around a city's hottest restaurant or where to get the most authentic street food, you're not alone. Culinary travel is booming, and, according to the editors of Saveur magazine, Tel Aviv has joined well-known cities in Europe as a top culinary destination.

Culinary travelers are a bit of a different breed than your average tourist. They want to experience a city, country or region through its food. Like Anthony Bourdain without a camera, they'd rather go to a pop-up restaurant in Paris than see the Eiffel Tower.

The culinary traveler is "very interested in following food to its source, wants to find the real thing when they travel and not just a bland example of what I call 'international fancy food,' the kind of stuff that may be fine but you could eat anywhere," Adam Sachs, editor-in-chief of Saveur, told From The Grapevine.

These adventurous foodies are sure to add Tel Aviv to their itinerary. The city is included on Saveur's "Best Culinary Destination, Small International City" list. The category recognizes cities with populations under 800,000. Tel Aviv shares honors with Copenhagen, Lyon, France; San Sebastian, Spain and Florence, Italy. Food fans have been going to Lyon and Florence for decades. Copenhagen can boast of Noma, which has two Michelin stars and was recently named "Best Restaurant in the World" by Restaurant magazine.

Alma cocktailsCocktails from the Alma Hotel, cited by Saveur as one of the reasons Tel Aviv is a top culinary destination. (Photo: © Adam Groffman)

Tel Aviv made the list because "the restaurant scene has really come alive recently," said Sachs, citing the efforts of chefs like Eyal Shani, Meir Adoni, Chaim Cohen and Maoz Alonim to open restaurants that defy expectations and are different than what residents of the city have seen in the past. "But what makes the place great isn’t new," he added. "It’s the incredible foundation of this huge mix of cultures and cuisines from North Africa, Italy and France."

What makes a great culinary destination? In rare cases, it can be a chef who is so transcendent that the restaurant becomes a destination — like when El Bulli was operating in Spain. More likely, though, it's a "broad range" of experiences and flavors, said Sachs. "A place where one night you can eat the classic representation of the food of this area and the next night you meet a chef who’s bringing her own influences and personal experience to the table. Add some decent wine or a cool bar scene and we’re ready to get on a plane to eat."

Colorful produce at Carmel Market in Tel AvivTel Aviv's Carmel Market is a must-see destination for foodies. (Photo: Jorge Láscar/Flickr)

So, where would Sachs recommend for a good Tel Aviv culinary tour? "Hummus for breakfast at Ali Karavan, a walk around the old and fascinating Levinsky spice market and the Shuk Hanamal farmer’s market at the port. Lunch at HaBasta. Dinner at some of the established spots like North Abraxas, Herbert Samuel, HaSalon or small places like HaHalutzim Shalosh in which you might be in an Israeli version of Portland or Williamsburg. Check out the vibe at Port Said, wherever the new place to get drinks is, late night snacks of pita at Miznon."

Sounds pretty good to us. First Tel Aviv, then Lyon, then Copenhagen and Nomo. Who's with us?

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