Destinations: When in Tel Aviv...

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 29 2008 11:00 PM ET

This sunny
seaside town, with its Miami-esque Mediterranean promenade
and easygoing café culture, is packed with the
kind of "we're here, we're queer" vibe more typically
found in Sydney and San Francisco than in one of the
most conservative regions in the world.

But it wasn't
always this way. Just a decade ago the country witnessed
its first televised gay kiss, courtesy of producer-director
couple Eytan Fox and Gal Uchovsky, who went on to make
the iconic gay-themed Israeli films "The Bubble" and
"Yossi & Jagger." "The Bubble," in particular,
presented an air-kissing, gym-going, chest-shaving Tel
Aviv that -- at least for visitors -- is not so far
from the truth.

There are
easy-access saunas, a troika of sex clubs, cruising and
sunning on gay beaches and plenty of high-culture
diversions like symphony, opera, dance and theater --
with many performances in English.


THE DRINK

Evita

31 Yavne St.; 011-972-3-5669559
Evita is one of Tel Aviv's rare true lounges,
with comfy furniture, a full dining menu and an
excellent range of cocktails. Its three owners are
thoroughly tall, dark and handsome, and the casual vibe
ensures a welcome balance between professional types
and just-out club kids.

Cedamus Amori 37 Nahalat Binyamin St.; 011-972-54-7750707
Serving both cocktails and light cuisine, this
split-level lounge bar includes a gallery and events
space up top, while the downstairs bar features
rotating DJs spinning an eclectic mix of punk, electro,
classic soul and deep New York-style house.

Levontine 7 7 Levontine St.; 011-972-3-5605084
Opened late last year, this is a performance
space established by New York City jazz musician Assif
Tsahar and Ilan Volkov, the Israeli-born conductor of
the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The duplex club
showcases the best of local and international punk, rock,
jazz and modern classical. Its queer Yod party
(Yod.shoyn.com) is an '80s hitfest starring Madonna,
Morrissey, et al.


THE BITE

Brasserie M&R 70 Ibn Gvirol St.; 011-972-3-6967111
With its art deco atmosphere, authentic Parisian
menu and prime city-center location, Brasserie lures
everyone from politicians to celebs, army officers to
high-tech whiz kids. Do as they do and park yourself
on one of Brasserie's rich wooden banquettes to enjoy Left
Bank classics like oysters, steak tartare, braised
short ribs and coq au vin.

Martha Kitchen and Bar 26 Ibn Gvirol St.; 011-972-3-6966843
Owned by Israeli-American fashion designer Elie
Tahari (of Theory fame), Martha Kitchen and Bar is an
all-hours hot spot with a tasty range of house-made
vodkas (flavored with cinnamon, lavender or ginger) and a
mod-Mediterranean menu. Come for lunch, followed by a visit
to the nearby Tel Aviv Museum, or pop in for a late
supper after artsy performances at the neighboring Tel
Aviv Cinematheque.


THE GROOVE

Cafe Barzilay 13 Harechev St.; 011-972-3-6878090
Tel Aviv's indie homo haunt of choice which
moved to grand new digs in the gritty east end about a
year ago. Now housed in a massive, stark industrial
space, it hosts weekly rotating DJs and themed party nights,
including its (very) after-hours PAG party on Thursdays.
Don't even think of arriving before 1 a.m.

Lima Lima bar 42 Lilenblum St.; 011-972-3-5600924
A new weekly party here called the Notorious
G.A.Y. delivered an unexpected dose of funk and soul
to staid Monday nights. Named in honor of a fallen rap
icon, G.A.Y. lures some of Tel Aviv's tastiest
fun-seekers, who groove to hip-hop, R&B and disco
classics from the '70s to today. The terrace is great
for cocktails and flirting in warm-weather months.

Big Boys Moadon Hateatron, 10 Jerusalem Ave.,
Jaffa; 011-972-3-5184715; Popring.co.il/site/english.aspx

This monthly party for men 29-plus may have a
slightly "aging student union" feel, but it's
refreshingly friendly, surprisingly popular and a
welcome respite from youth-oriented gay club culture, and it
should be adopted worldwide.


THE ART

Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv 99 Dizengoff St.;
011-972-3-5220249; Bauhaus-Center.com

The bijou Bauhaus Center packs in nearly the
entire history of this distinct design genre as it
developed in both Israel and abroad. Don't miss the
center's art and design exhibitions that are in rotation,
and ask about its two-hour walking tour of Tel Aviv's
Bauhaus legacy -- conducted in English, Hebrew and
German.


THE BED

David InterContinental 12 Kaufman St.;
011-972-3-7951111; Interconti.com

This soaring five-star 600-room glass-walled
affair was good enough for Madonna during her hyped
cabala pilgrimage a few years back and remains a prime
address for both business and leisure. The alfresco swimming
pool hosts surprisingly fun parties during the summer.

Nina Café Suites 29 Shabazi St.:
011-972-52-5084141; NinaCafeHotel.com

This new five-room B&B is located in Tel
Aviv's upscale Neve Tzedek district. Decorated by the
owner, it includes custom-crafted original furniture
and antiques sourced from Parisian flea markets.