Tel Aviv Renaissance
Published: April 2009
By David Kaufman
Searching for a stretch of Israel’s favorite coastal city that’s undiscovered by everyone but the chic locals?Look no further.
The neighborhood of Gan HaHashmal takes its name from Israel’s first "electric park," which opened in Tel Aviv in the early twenties. Surrounded by manicured greenery and a cluster of elegant, late-Ottoman-era houses, the area flourished during Israel’s pre-Independence period in the 1940’s—before the citywide Bauhaus architectural boom. But in the seventies, the Gan fell into decline when the power plant that put it on the map closed. That is, until Tel Aviv’s indie-fashion crowd found it in the new millennium and moved in. Today, cutting-edge boutiques, restaurants, and nightspots populate every block. Below, six plugged-in addresses.
The stylish Nina Café Suite Hotel (29 Shabazi St.; 972-3/ 516-1767; www.ninacafehotel.com; doubles from $150) is located in the nearby Neve Tzedek quarter. Opened by the owners of boho-cool Nina Café, the property’s four airy rooms are decorated with custom wood furnishings and bold Art Deco-inspired textiles. L’Occitane bath products, pillow-top chocolates, and indulgent breakfasts of croissants and café au lait make this hotel the area’s most inviting.
Stop for lunch at Daddy Gil’s Organic Hummus (55 Yehuda Halevi; 972-3/566-3320; lunch for two $16), where owner Gil Moaz pairs his classic spread, served "country-style"—spicy and flecked with whole chickpeas—with freshly baked pitas. Come dinnertime, head a few doors down to Joz Ve Loz (51 Yehuda Halevi; 972-3/560-6385; dinner for two $60) for dishes that are miles more ambitious, such as chicken tagine with apricots.
FIT graduate and Tel Aviv native Idit Barak was one of the first boutique owners to open here when she debuted Delicatessen (4 Barzilay St.; 972-3/560-2297) in 2004. Her quirky yet crafty designs capture the Gan’s sartorial spirit. Expect high-waisted trousers and embellished clutches that are unconventional but practical, alongside handmade jewelry and knitwear.
With its massive glass windows and neon-colored interiors, LovEAT (1 Barzilay St.; 972-3/566-6699; lunch for two $25) literally shines bright in the heart of the new Gan. This espresso-and-sandwich bar, which sources its beans from Costa Rica, Brazil, and Guatemala, helped pioneer Israel’s fair-trade consciousness. Wi-Fi-equipped, it’s the neighborhood’s de facto headquarters.
Uzbek-born Helena Blaunstein (pictured below) designs an eclectic women’s clothing line for her store Frau Blau (8 HaHashmal St.; 972-3/560-1735; www.fraublau.com). Typified by vibrant colors, patchwork patterns, and fitted, feminine shapes, her clothes have a vintage edge paired with a decidedly 21st-century playfulness ("Frau Blau" is German slang for "drunk woman").
Levontin (11 Levontin St.; 972-3/ 560-7934) draws a lively flock of night owls, especially on Wednesdays, for its Middle Eastern music fête. Down the street, the final touches have just been put on Levontin 7 (7 Levontin St.; 972-3/560-5084), which alternately plays host to classical quartets and hip-hop parties.
Nait Rozenfelder’s unique, intimate fashion shows held in small venues (local restaurants and homes) have a cult-like following, but its her array of double-collared jackets, kimono-like dresses, and flower-patterned blouses that steal the show (10 Mikveh Yisrael St.; 011-972-3-560-0402).
Browse the entire selection of Yael Rosen’s ultra-thin, locally made leather handbagspieces of which are sold throughout the U.S. and Europe (8 HaHashmal St.; 011-972-3-560-4890; www.kisim.com).
Here, designer Alice Dahan stocks her combat-chic pieces: distressed jeans, dark-layered tanks, and cotton tissue T-shirts, alongside clothing and accessories from international and local designers alike, such as Freitag, Vered Elrom, and Ilaria Nistri (12 HaRakevet Street St.; 011-972-3-560-1658).
This tiny boutique houses designer Shani Bar’s entire collection of shoes (from pumps to sandals), roomy purses and Wrangler-style beltsall designed in her second-floor atelier with mostly Italian leathers (Mikveh Yisrael 3, 011-972-3-560-5981).
Gan HaHashmal’s two dozen businesses have banded together to form Collective 6940 (www.6940.info). Named after the area’s official position on Tel Aviv’s municipal map and taking a cue from Israel’s kibbutz-era past, the Collective sponsors sales, holiday parties, seasonal fashion shows, and after-hours shopping sprees.