One of the best ways to explore a city is to team up with the locals and taste the food. Now, there’s an app for that.
A pinch of rosemary flowers, the zest of half a lemon, a handful of garden balm, a kumquat and some apple, preserved. He pours in fruit syrups and seltzer water. He passes the glass over the desk. It looks like a forest. It smells like morning dew, the shuk, and mulled fruits. I take a sip. The different spices ignite my tongue. First the front, then the back all the way up the roof of my mouth. I swallow it. Take another sip. I smile.
I feel like I have found a hidden secret in Tel Aviv. A hole-in-the-wall. A Wonderland. Behind it stands the Mad Hatter and the rabbit in the shape of a man with long, grey hair and a matching vest and an Israeli woman with a big blue scarf around her neck, her hair in a loose bun. The man is Benny Briga, the owner of the kiosk at Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv. The street is full of spice vendors, cafes, and Burekas – Israels’s most popular snack.
In front of the kiosk, that most of all look like an apothecary from a fairy tale, a white car is parked, boxes of citrus fruits and fresh herbs placed on the hood. The back of the truck has been turned into a small seating area with newspapers and cushions. I crawl inside, carefully as to not spill my fizzy drink. I pull out my phone eager to see where I’m going next.
My food tour travel companion
I have a confession. I did not uncover Benny Briga’s kiosk myself. I was led there by Bitemojo. Bitemojo is a travel companion that helps you find local tastes and discover the cities you visit avoiding all the touristy stuff and showing you the best each city has to offer.
I have six bites on my phone; The currency of Bitemojo. I used two at Benny Briga’s. For the next bites, I buy two Burekas further down Levinsky. There’s a massive line, but the staff works deftly and efficiently. I show them the redeemed bites on my phone, and soon I stand with a large chunk of flaky dough pastry with crumbled cheese, a very hard boiled egg, spicy sauce, and salty pickle on the side. Only halfway through I’m full. I look at my phone. A few blocks away I’ll find the next stop on the tour. By the way, I choose the Hipster Tel Aviv tour, but there are more options than that like Tel Aviv for Vegans and Night and the City.
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On the way to the next stop, the app shows points of interest; tales from the community, stories about the culture and the history of the neighborhood, in this case, the Florentine, a part of Tel Aviv that very much resembles the hip areas of Berlin. Just louder and more aromatic.
Get the real local tastes
I peek inside a green corner house. Hundreds of bottles of anise sparkle behind the bar. Anise and fish and chips are the specialty of Pimpinella, and the bottles range over Ouzo, Sambuca, and Arak. Are you more traditional, there’s beer on tap too, which together with fish and chips makes for a simple yet tasty meal.
Another tasty meal everyone has to try in Israel is hummus, tahini, and pita. Luckily, Bitemojo has a stop for just that. At Herzl st. we make a stop at a shop where guests indulge in large chunks of fluffy pita, plates of hummus, tahini, falafel, and salad. One bite here gets you all of the above. Unfortunately, I’m completely full. I eat a falafel, perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and a pita with an ample amount of hummus. I’m done.
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But the remaining bites on my phone won’t go to waste. They are redeemable for six months, and I can spend them in all of the cities where Bitemojo is out: Jerusalem, Berlin, Barcelona, and Rome.
I’m all for exploring the local’s favorites when I’m visiting new cities. And I can’t wait for Bitemojo to expand their food tours in cities around the world.