Israel is the land of milk and honey. You’ll find plenty of both at a traditional Israeli breakfast buffet, alongside a cultural mish-mash of international a.m. delicacies.
You can keep your wine pairings and molecular gastronomy. I’ll trade it for a babka and a baba ganoush. Candlelit dinners are for impressing people. Brunch is about relationships. Family. Friends.
To me, there is no greater meal than one that involves coffee and a newspaper and a meandering conversation over food meant to be savored slowly. Coffee, fresh baked bread, capers, smoked fish and the smell of a sliced onion take me straight back to my own childhood kitchen on sunlit weekend mornings. Poppyseeds and cake crumbs co-mingling on the table, my mother sneaking another pinch of coffee cake. Dad in his bathrobe.
Relationships are complicated, and so are the bevy of dishes you will find at a “typical” Israeli breakfast buffet where so many strong culinary cultures show up ready to greet the brand new day. The unlikely clash of dishes is exactly what makes Israeli breakfasts stand out. Everyone, and their cuisine, is welcome here. It’s a homey potluck where everyone present offers up their most beloved homemade specialties and somehow, it all works. Why not? It’s breakfast. Breakfast is not pretentious.
Israeli hotels are famous for their epic breakfast, and perhaps none more famous than the Dan Hotel chain. Consider yourself lucky if you are booked into one of these on a bed and breakfast plan. And plan accordingly.
Thanks to the Dan Hotel Chain, and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for hosting my breakfasts and working with me on this story. All opinions are my own.
At the Dan Boutique in Jerusalem, as well as the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv, there’s the Eastern European standards, the Middle Eastern fare, the American classics and dozens of competing fresh salads lined up like contestants in a beauty pageant. These salads are the result of every immigrant culture from Russia to Morocco suddenly finding themselves with more tomatoes and cucumbers than they ever dreamed they’d have to work with. So many of these salads are gluten free and/or vegan, and at the hotels mentioned in this article, all are kosher.
Produce in Israel is a dream come true, and the markets are where the Israeli breakfasts really begin. Each tiny tomato grown in Israel seems to pack the flavor of five American grown tomatoes. The cucumbers are crunchier and then there are the spices – fresh ground and fragrant. Don’t forget about the fruit. Bursting with bright colors and candylike flavors. Why doesn’t fruit grown at home taste like this?
Juice your own fresh oranges at the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv, then saunter over to the coffee bar where you are welcome to pick up unlimited cappuccinos. Set up camp indoors in the large sunny dining room or take your plate outside to the patio to dine alfresco and enjoy the Mediterranean salt air and sounds of the city waking up.
What’s for seconds at the Dan Panorama?
Over 100 dishes are served every day to over 600 diners at this large landmark hotel. The menus change 3-4 times a year and with guest’s preferences: for instance, there was a traditional Chinese breakfast corner set up when we recently visited.
I could have done a whole separate article on the cheeses at Israeli breakfast buffets. There’s cheddar and gouda and blue cheese but also so many types of cheese and cream cheese that we do not even have names for here, many handmade and artisanal. There is Bulgarian salted cheese and regular salted cheese, feta and lebneh. Savory yellow cheese scented with turmeric and caraway. Mild edam. Some brie and of course yogurt. There is always yogurt.
Israeli dairy products always taste light and fresh alongside the heavier proteins on an Israeli buffet – usually six or seven types of smoked and pickled fish.
No breakfast buffet is truly complete without cereal, muesli and assorted dried fruits and nuts, is it?
Bread is the vehicle for the cheese and fish toppings and here we have many choices as well.
Then there is the halvah – a kind of sesame paste candy that seems a little out of place on a breakfast plate, yet somehow fits.
At the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, also a Dan Hotel, Cappuccinos are brought to the table and omelets are made to order. The house specialty is an “egg muffin” made from fresh cream, gruyere and eggs, steamed in a ramekin. Table service is more highlighted at this 5 star property, but for me, the buffet is still where it’s at.
Eggplants and tomatoes are cooked into bubbling hot shakshuka – a sort of poached egg topped ratatouille. More vegetables are grilled and presented both hot and cold for breakfast. Grilled zucchini and peppers vie for room on my plate, competing with marinated mushrooms and artichokes.
There is also fresh juice bar at the King David that brings a hint of California to the breakfast table – kiwi, orange, pomegranate and watermelon juice practically guarantee a healthy day. The combination of caring service, the view of the Old City Walls, plus a comfortable home-y ambience (on top of the sheer variety of foods served) secure the King David hotel’s first place entry on my list of “Best Places to Breakfast” in the world.
Long brunches always save time for seconds, and even thirds. One more cappuccino and a sliver of cake while we finish our conversation, or the last bit of the paper. There is no need to rush.
I don’t have to eat any other meal for the rest of the day, as long as I have an at once humble and grand Israeli breakfast to look forward to in the morning.
My Top Picks Where to Brunch in Israel:
- The King David Hotel Jerusalem – Unsurpassed service and quality. Reservations accepted for outside guests, call for availability.
- The Dan Panorama Tel Aviv – sit outside and enjoy the view
- The Dan Boutique Jerusalem – popular on Shabbat!
Only in Israel – 3 Foods You Must Try:
- Shakshuka – a sort of ratatouille like vegetable dish with poached eggs
- Boreckas – a potato filled, phyllo dough pastry
- Halvah – a sesame paste based candy that is often mixed with nuts, coffee, alcohol
Live Stream of Israeli Breakfast Buffets:
Want to see for yourself? Here’s three breakfast buffets I live stream shared on my recent trip.
The Dan Boutique, Jerusalem
Breakfast Buffet at the Isrotel Dead Sea Hotel
Breakfast Buffet at the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv
What You Need to Know About Israeli Breakfast Buffets:
- Come hungry
- Wear comfortable clothing
- Pace yourself & leave room for dessert!
- Expect a modified menu on Saturdays (Shabbat)
Try it Making This Yourself:
Want to bring a taste of Israel to your table? Try serving this Simple Israeli Salad. No meal in Israel is complete without this staple.