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Tel-Aviv: where eating gluten-free can be an adventure. Beware of cross contamination!

This summer I had the opportunity to travel to a new country! I was so excited! While Isabel was enjoying the paradisiacal beaches in Mauritius, I took the opportunity to go to Israel to visit some customers!
Although I took the first flight via Frankfurt at 10:30 a.m., I got up early enough to have time to prepare a couple of sandwiches. My flights were with Lufthansa and had the gluten-free menu confirmed, but given the bad experience I had with Fly Emirates when I flew to Johannesburg (here you can read the first and second part of the trip), I am not really confident with the airlines (I know not all are doing it wrong but, if they do it wrong, I am the one who does not eat). In addition, I had the confirmation of the gluten free inflight menu only for the flight from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, since on the flight from Barcelona to Frankfurt there was only “Appetizer” and this usually means that they will have nothing gluten free.

As expected, in the middle of the first flight, they served the appetizers: salmon sandwich or lemon cake. Obviously I could not eat any of them, not only because of the gluten, but because I’m also allergic to fish. I told the stewardess and she told me that they had nothing prepared, but that when they had finished distributing the food to the passage they would look what they could do.

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After a while she came with some almonds and a fruit yogurt. I read the ingredients of both yogurt and almonds and none of them indicated “gluten free” anywhere. I preferred not to eat yogurt because, as far as I know, the fruits are floured so they do not sink into the yogurt (if I’m wrong, please comment below) and as the almonds were fried and were not labeled as gluten free, I did not know if there would be cross-contamination. I went back to talk to the stewardess and she brought me another yogurt, but the same happened: no indications; so I decided to eat my sandwich of Nutella and ordered an apple juice.

Once in Frankfurt, I had only an hour to reach the boarding gate for Israel. It took me almost 40 minutes to get out of the terminal, take the tram, pass the passport control and cross the terminal again to get to the gate for flights to Israel. Once there, I passed one of the most strict security controls I have ever gone through. While a security officer emptied all the contents of my briefcase, another was in charge of registering me. And so with each of the passengers passing that control. This was the first indication that I was going to a country where security is taken very seriously.

It was 2:00 pm and I only had one sandwich left. I didn’t eat it during the first flight in case I could not eat anything on the next. Taking advantage that it was lunch time and that in the bar of the waiting room there was nothing gluten free, I ate it before boarding.

Half an hour after taking off for Tel Aviv, they served the food. They brought me very complete gluten-free menu: a couple of gluten-free cereal loaf with butter and Philadelphia, a chicken dish with potato salad and, as a main course, tofu with potatoes and sweet peppers.

When I arrived, I picked up the suitcase and went directly to the passport control, where they gave me a short interview to know the reasons for my visit and with whom I would stay in the country.

Once inside the country, I met our representative in Israel and from there we went directly to the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel in Ramat Gan. Another detail that surprised me is that they have to enter a password to be able to turn the car on… I would not have imagined that they had come this far when it comes to security.

During check-in at the hotel, the representative reminded them that I was the celiac guy who was going to stay there for a few days. They told us that there would be no problem, and that we just had to inform upon arriving at the restaurant. After saying goodbye to the representative and agreeing an hour to start the next day with the visits, I went up to the room to change my clothes and then went straight to the restaurant.

There were many people because it coincided with the Maccabees Games (an event similar to the Olympic Games but reserved for Jewish athletes). When I got to the restaurant, I tried to speak to one of the waitresses but she only spoke Hebrew and literally ignored me. I looked in my mobile phone for the gluten-free travel card in Hebrew and showed it to her. He read it, shrugged and continued to ignore me…

I tried with another waitress and the same thing happened… Seeing the possibilities of communication with the waiters, I went to see what was in the buffet. The risk of cross-contamination was so high that I tried to talk to the cook, to whom I showed the gluten-free travel card in Hebrew. Again, I didn’t succeed. He only told me that I could eat boiled potatoes, beans and white rice… I asked about the chicken, but he could not tell me if the sauce had flour in it… besides, the chicken was right next to the hake, also with a lot of sauce, and when I saw how the hake sauce sprinkled the chicken tray while one of the guests was served, I stopped asking… what a fail! I could’nt believe it! I was starving, so I ended up taking a plate with what they told was gluten free: boiled potatoes, rice and green beans.

After a while, a man with a tie came in and started talking to the waiters, giving them orders. I understood that he must be the maitre and I went to speak with him. Hallelujah! That gentleman spoke English. After explaining everything, he told me that he would call the chef to come and talk to me. He also told me to inform the reception what I wanted for dinner the next day and they would have it prepared. The cook never came, so I filled another dish with the same and went to sleep.

When I left the restaurant I did not say anything at the reception. I preferred to wait to see what breakfast was like and then decide whether to have dinner at the hotel or not. And that was a good decision!

The next day, when I went down to breakfast, I repeated the operation again. This time I looked for a young waitress to show her the gluten-free travel card in Hebrew. Although she spoke English and tried to help me, I could not eat anything, since she told me they could prepare me an omelet, since the eggs had no gluten. Exactly, the eggs are naturally gluten free, but they become gluten full if you prepare them in the same frying pan than you prepare the creps! Finally, I understood I wouldn’t be able to eat there. I went back to the room and ate the cookies that I had brought in the big suitcase.

¡Decided! I would take breakfast in the room, eating the food I had brought with me and I would do the other dinners in one of the restaurants of the list the Association of Celiacs of Israel had sent me! At the end of the article you will find the list.

While we were going to the first visit in Umm Al-Fahem, I explained what happened to my representative and was not surprised… his grandson was also celiac and they do not go out to eat often because, although many restaurants know celiac disease, they still do not have good control of cross-contamination. Actually, he brought me some gluten-free crackers in case we could not find any place to eat, since during the day we would be out of Tel Aviv.

As we were driving across the country to the north, the landscapes and towns we saw reminded me a lot of Morocco (here you can read the entries about the first and second part of my trip there): arid, warm and with a clear predominance of brown color range. Arriving at Umm Al-Fahem, in the Arab part of Israel, we met with the customer. During the meeting they offered us food, and it was when the representative – who in was an interpreter at the same time – explained my allergies and intolerances to the customer. I was surprised by his reaction! When my representative explained everything, the Manager stopped the meeting and sent his son to call some of the restaurants that were nearby. He took the gluten-free travel card in Hebrew and some minutes after he returned to inform his father that the restaurant “Joe – A beautiful place to get lost” in the New City Council Building of Umm Al-Fahem (the last shopping mall they had built in the city) could adapt some of the dishes. The gentleman smiled and told us that this is the restaurant he usually goes with his wife and assured we would eat very well there.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, Galion, the owner, was already waiting for us. While ordering our food, he explained me what he could prepare without gluten: halloumi salad, marinated chicken with rice and some bread. All gluten free! I still couldn’t believe it… when he saw that I asked so many questions about the cross-contamination and the ingredients of the chicken marinade, he explained that his nephew was celiac and that I did not have to worry at all. After knowing this, I felt safer!During the meal, we did not talk about work and they explained me things about Israel and their traditions. It was very interesting!

When I finished eating, Galion saw that I had not eaten the gluten-free bread, so he wrapped it up for me and gave me another unopened so I could take it home. Hallucinating!

Then the General Manager of the company we were visiting gave us a tour of the city to show us and explained the growth plans he had for his company. When we returned to his office, we reviewed the main points of the meeting and considered it as finished.

While going back to Tel Aviv, we took the opportunity to see another customer that was on our way, and after that second meeting, we went straight back to Tel Aviv, stopping by at my hotel so I could change my clothes.

From there, we went straight to the center of Tel Aviv, entering by the promenade and heading to Jaffa, from where we could see the skyline of the city. Upon arriving there, the sun began to set and we could enjoy the views of the city during the sunset. Then I took the opportunity to send a video to Isabel. I love it when we are both traveling and we send pictures and videos of what we have seen during the day!

After the sunset, we went to find a restaurant for dinner. One week before starting the trip, I contacted the Israel association through office@celiac.org.il for information on restaurants. From the list they sent me, we chose the La Lasagna restaurant, an Italian restaurant (also kosher) that was at 177 Dizengof Street.

When we arrived to the restaurant, I asked for the menu in English and explained to the waitress that I am celiac. Immediately they indicated to me the pages of the menu that corresponded to the gluten-free dishes. Choices were: gluten-free lasagna, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free bruschettas, gluten-free gnocchi or gluten-free pizza. I finally decided to order a margarita pizza with olives, mushrooms and egg. My colleague ordered a pesto lasagna.After finishing dinner, he took me back to the hotel and we were ready for the next day.

Until here the first part of my trip to Israel. You can see the pictures of the trip here.

List of restaurants in Israel:

1. Orna and Ella – cafe-restaurant with a selection of gluten free dishes. It is in Sheinkin 33 of Tel Aviv.

2. Amore Miu, another italian restaurante where toe at gluten free pasta. It is in Ibn Gvirol 100 of Tel Aviv.

3. America Burgers. It is in Allenby 112 of Tel Aviv.

4. Anastasia,  a vegan restaurant where you can find the gluten free dishes identified in the menú. It is in Friedmann 54 of Tel Aviv.

5. Arpa’s. They have gluten free menú. It is in Hacarmel 38, Carmel Market of Tel Aviv.

6. Buddha Burgas, another vegan restaurant with a selection of gluten free dishes in their menú. It is in Yehuda Halevy 53 of Tel Aviv.

7. “BBB Burgers” restaurant chain. They will serve you a burger with gluten free buen. Be careful with the fries as they cook them in the same oil tan onion rings. There are many.

8. Bazili, a pizzeria in in Yehuda Maccabee 53 of Tel Aviv.

9. The Original Pancake House, for gluten free creps in Hangar 22 Tel Aviv harbor.

10. Hudson Brasserie, where you will ifnd a gluten free menu. It is in The Iron Age 27, Ramat Hahayal, Tel Aviv.

11. Totoma, It is in Dizengoff 265 corner with Yirmiyahu of Tel Aviv.

12. Tiger Lily, a thai restaurant with gluten free menu. It is in Iron Age 32, Ramat Hachayal of Tel Aviv.

13. Tandoori, an Indian restaurant with gluten free menu. It is in Dizengoff Square, 2 Zamenhof Street of Tel Aviv.

14. Mel and Michelle, another Italian restaurant in Ben Yehuda 155 of Tel Aviv.

15. Mexicana. They have a gluten free menú. It is in Bograshov 7 of Tel Aviv and in Yirmiyahu 17.

16. Neve Tzedek – Place of Meat, they have some gluten free dishes. It is in Shabazi 65, Neve Tzedek of Tel Aviv.

17. Stick House, where you will find a selection of homemade ice cream, all gluten free, lactose free and sacarose free. It is in Dizengoff 147 of Tel Aviv.

18. Johnny Building Falafel, where you will be able to eat gluten free falafel, including pita bread. It is in Tchernichovsky 2 of Tel Aviv.

19. Rio Grande, a steak house in Herzl 4 of Tel Aviv.

BY CLICKING ON THE MAP OF GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS YOU FILL SEE ALL RESTAURANTS WE DESCRIBED IN THIS POST LOCATED IN THE MAP OF GLUTEN-FREE PLACES:

AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN HEBREW:

P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists. I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend. Thank you very much!

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Me llamo Santi y actualmente vivo en la provincia de Barcelona. En 2001, me diagnosticaron de enfermedad celíaca… ¡por fin! Además, soy intolerante a la lactosa, la alergia al pescado me mata, ¡literalmente!, y también algunas frutas... Viajar sin gluten se ha convertido en mi mayor hobby y creé Gluten Free Adventures por esta razón. Desde los 8 años, he viajado y vivido en distintos países… ¡aquí comparto mis experiencias viajando para descubrir restaurantes sin gluten, pastelerías sin gluten y heladerías sin gluten por todo el mundo! ¡Espero que os gusten nuestros viajes sin gluten!