Jerusalem has a huge selection of restaurants, dairy bars, lunch counters, snack shops, delicatessens, and cafes.
In the Old City and East Jerusalem, you’ll find mostly Middle Eastern cuisine, including numerous snack stands and inexpensive Arab eateries. Pork is prohibited for Muslims and Jews, but you will find pork, shellfish and alcohol (forbidden to Muslims) in East Jerusalem restaurants catering to tourists or Christian Jerusalemites. There are no kosher restaurants in East Jerusalem or in the Old City except in the Jewish Quarter. Most Old City restaurants open daily from late morning to 5 or 6pm.
In West Jerusalem, the dining scene is quite different. There’s not much authentic, ethnic dining, but West Jerusalem has an oversupply of French/Mediterranean restaurants overseen by talented, inventive chefs. These meals are not cheap, but almost all restaurants offer incredible business lunch specials from noon until 5 or 6pm that make them very affordable, at least at that time of day. You’ll find pedestrian streets that are wall-to-wall eateries, but some of the best dining choices are in quiet, slightly out-of-the-way streets and in old Ottoman-era mansions surrounded by walled gardens. Almost every restaurant or cafe has a security guard at its entrance (and many add a small security charge that’s worth the peace of mind).
Catching Restaurants at Their Best
Saturday night is big for dining out in Israel, but think twice before booking a top table at a kosher restaurant, because you won’t find restaurants at their best. Many kosher restaurants prepare food on Thursday, when they receive their last batch of fresh fish and vegetables before the weekend, so their staff won’t have to work on the Sabbath. If you’re going to splurge at a top restaurant, do it midweek.
Jerusalem’s Top Eateries
Best for Special Occasions: Noya, run by a chef with golden hands, Noya offers generous portions of scrumptious, often inventive foods (the salt-baked chicken is to die for). The Business Lunch here is one of the best values in town. And it’s kosher, so everyone can enjoy it. Adom, a creative Mediterranean restaurant, is a close second with a menu that ranges from fine Galilee lamb to crab ravioli in Roquefort cheese sauce. As you may have guessed, Adom is not kosher.
Best for Eye Candy: In the Old City, Papa Andreas serves a Middle Eastern menu with a breathtaking view of the Dome of the Rock. It has no peer in this neighborhood. In the New City, Lavan at the Cinematheque has a terrace that overlooks a dazzling panorama of the Old City. Its food is of a higher quality than Papa Andreas’, although we’ve found that we can linger longer over a meal in the Old City, which is important when you’ve come for the views.
Best Festive Atmosphere: Jerusalem Hotel, but that only holds for its special Friday dinners, which feature live Arabic and Middle Eastern music and lots of dancing (the waiters perform, but the customers usually end up joining the action, too).
Best for Foodies: Located near the city’s food market, Machneyuda offers Jerusalem’s most inventive, upscale menu (sweetbreads with chutney, labneh, and cornichons, anyone?). The tasting menu is highly recommended so that you can see the brilliant range of the chefs here.
Best for Traditional Jerusalem Cuisine: Presided over by the popular Moshe Basson, Eucalyptus offers a true taste of the city. Not only does Basson reconstruct authentic traditional recipes, he also loves to explain them to guests.
In the Bazaars & near Damascus Gate
Although there are not many restaurants in this area, you can find plenty of Arabic pastry shops, simple eateries grilling whole chickens (which can be carved and packed in aluminum foil for takeout), and fresh juice bars. Wander from Damascus Gate along Suq Khan es-Zeit Street, which bears to the right at the fork.
The Jewish Quarter
This part of the Old City is home to a number of kosher fast-food spots on Jewish Quarter Road, where you can have a bowl of soup (usually made from powder), a slice of kosher pizza, or a bagel at a shop at the Seven Arches, near the Burnt House. On Jewish Quarter Road you’ll also find two (nonkosher) old-fashioned Arabic-style bread bakeries where you can buy warm, freshly baked pita and big sesame rolls, which are tasty to snack on as you explore the Old City. Ask the baker for a tiny, free package of zataar (local spices) to flavor the bread in Middle Eastern style.
Kosher restaurants usually close by 2 or 3pm on Friday for Shabbat. The following nonkosher restaurants, described in detail in this chapter, have Friday evening or Saturday afternoon hours and provide a good variety of choices.
In downtown West Jerusalem: Barood, Focaccia Bar, the restaurant at the King David Street YMCA, Spaghettim, and Zuni.
In South Jerusalem: Adom and Lavan at the Cinémathèque.
In East Jerusalem: Restaurants are open on Shabbat.Shlomzion HaMalka Street, running south for 2 blocks from Jaffa Road to David Street, is lined with very stylish restaurants and bars. Restaurants here pride themselves on their friendly vibe. Late on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the establishments of the street sometimes morph into a wall-to-wall party.
Agrippas Street & Machane Yehuda
Walk a few blocks up Agrippas Street, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by no-frills restaurants and hole-in-the-wall spots serving generous portions of grilled meats, shashlik (chunks of meat on a skewer), and kabobs (ground meat on a skewer). Don’t be afraid to try semi-nameless holes-in-the-wall. Any place that survives in this competitive market area has to be good!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.