In a country surrounded by enemies, it makes sense that traditional sanctuaries for escape — bars and nightclubs — are widely accessible and innovative. Whereas Hollywood haunts rely on Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan for cachet, Tel Aviv haunts rely on creative concepts, friendly service and good vibes.
Bars and nightclubs in Los Angeles are notorious for creating an aura of exclusivity with separate VIP entrances and lounges, tight lists and snobby doormen. Doormen in Tel Aviv, while tough as drill sergeants at times, don’t usually judge people by their status but by their energy, style and desire to spend money on a party.
Most parties reach their peak at 2 a.m. in Tel Aviv — the time for last call in Los Angeles.
And don’t worry. You don’t need a car to bar hop or get around in the city. Cabs are everywhere and relatively inexpensive, and the city center is compact enough to walk — or drag yourself — back to your hotel or apartment.
Here are a few places with a bit of a Hollywood touch, but which Hollywood haunts can also learn a thing or two from.
Even Woody Allen wouldn’t have thought of this: a Spanish tapas and wine bar inspired by “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” The film stars Scarlett Johansson as Cristina, the wild, unconventional free spirit who clashes with her strait-laced, conservative friend, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) when they are both smitten with the same hunky Spaniard played by Javier Bardem.
The location of Vicky Cristina is a worthy destination unto itself. It sits in the new Mitcham HaTachana, a quaint and well-manicured outdoor shopping and entertainment center in Neve Tzedek, located on the refurbished grounds of Tel Aviv’s pre-state train station.
Having opened this past summer, Vicky Cristina is a two-in-one outdoor bar with Spanish flavor. The “Cristina” side consists of several winding, curved bars with placement conducive to mingling. Leaves and branches of a large, beautiful ficus tree serve as a delightful rooftop and add a tropical, free-flowing touch, except in the winter, when the place is enclosed.
Across the way, “Vicky” is designed as a more traditional restaurant: one seating area consists of traditional square tables and another with high round tables, both sheltered by black-and-white striped umbrellas. The Spanish and Latin music at Vicky is a bit softer, to allow for dignified and prolonged conversation.
Mitcham Hatachana, Building 7, Koifman 1, Neve Tzedek. (03) 736-7272.
Stand outside The Container, located in the Old Jaffa Port, and, based on the structure alone, you might mistake it for a run-down warehouse. Large square windowpanes appear discolored and chipped. The outdoor seating area overlooks a small, grungy fisherman’s wharf.
The industrial atmosphere is intentional. The three owners — Vince Muster, a well-known Tel Aviv chef; Tsur Shezaf, a journalist and art critic; and Assaf Tavor, a local designer — conceived of The Container as a vanguard restaurant-bar set in an artsy warehouse that showcases up-and-coming artists and musicians.
At The Container, a large triangular bar takes up most of the interior, which on any given night hosts works of art and photography on the cracking brick walls. No room is wasted for showing off local art — even the bathrooms serve as galleries.
Hanger 2, Old Jaffa Port, (03) 683-6321. container.org.il.
Located on the happening Dizengoff Street between Frishman and Gordon (hence the name), Dizzy Frishdon should please L.A. bar-goers accustomed to a smoke-free environment. While Tel Aviv has passed a smoking ban in bars and nightclubs, the city is lax in enforcing it. The 14 owners of Dizzy Frishdon purposefully created a smoke-free, well lit and relatively quiet space.
“The people are very pretty and we want people to see them,” co-owner Gal Barkovich said. It’s easy to people-watch from the large rectangular bar in the center. The foyer is equipped with a wooden bar where swings serve as bar stools — a symbol of Tel Aviv as a playground for nightlife.
Dizengoff 121, Frishman, Tel Aviv. (03) 523-4111.
SUBLET ROOF LOUNGE
Israel isn’t driven by celebrity culture, but Sublet is probably the closest thing it has to a celebrity hotspot. Many Israeli A-list celebrities have made it here, like supermodel Bar Refaeli. It was the first choice for Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto and Madonna’s boy toy, Jesus Luz, when he came to Israel for a fashion shoot.
Stylistically, Sublet is reminiscent of the SkyBar on Sunset, but without the pool and pristine American polish. It’s located on a roof in the southern Tel Aviv promenade sandwiched between two business towers. Sublet has a wooden deck, two megabars and several lounge areas that overlook the ocean. Things really begin to pick up at midnight, with lines spilling onto the sidewalk. The DJ spins mostly mainstream pop, dance and house music nightly. Sublet is closed for winter, but will reopen in spring.
Koifman 6, Beit Gibor Roof, Tel Aviv. (52) 305-8686.