Jerusalem Restaurants

Jerusalem’s dining scene is smaller and more modest than Tel Aviv's, but is steeped in 4,000 years of culinary traditions. Among Jewish residents, more than a century of immigration has infused the local fare with the best of Kurdish, Moroccan, French, Polish, Yemenite, and Italian flavors. On the Palestinian side, most restaurants rely on a rich heritage of family cooking. On both sides, an elite class of chefs has begun combining the best of local ingredients with advanced cooking techniques and imaginative serving styles.

All this is to say that when you’re in Jerusalem you can enjoy the best of both worlds: hole-in-the-wall eateries brimming with aromatic stews and garlicky hummus or high-end dining rooms serving inspired and elegant riffs on the city’s flavors and produce.

Some cuisine designations are self-explanatory, but other terms may be confusing. A restaurant billing itself as "dairy" will serve meals without meat; many such places do serve fish, in addition to pasta, soup, and salads. "Oriental" usually means Middle Eastern (in contrast to Western), often meaning hummus, kebabs, and stews.

The term kosher doesn’t imply a particular style of cooking, only that the cooks followed Jewish dietary law in selecting and preparing the food. In Jerusalem, where there are many kosher standards from which to choose, the selection can be dizzying. But unless specific kosher standards govern your eating habits, don't worry. Jerusalem is home to dozens of kosher restaurants preparing excellent food. Remember that most kosher restaurants are closed for Friday dinner and Saturday lunch in observation of the Jewish Sabbath. A generous handful of nonkosher cafés, bars, and restaurants remain open all weekend.

Dress codes are pretty much nonexistent in Jerusalem's restaurants (as in the rest of Israel). People tend to dress casually—jeans are perfectly appropriate almost everywhere anytime. A modicum of neatness and modesty (trousers instead of jeans, a button-down shirt instead of a T-shirt) might be expected in the more exclusive establishments. In conservative neighborhoods, women will feel more comfortable covered up. If you brought the kids, you're in luck: nearly every Israeli restaurant is kid-friendly, and many have special menus and high chairs.

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  • 1. Focaccia Bar

    $$ | Center City | Italian

    This popular haunt has been baking fluffy focaccias for 20 years. There are many toppings (don't miss the black-olive spread), and some tasty...Read More

  • 2. Hamarakia

    $ | Center City | Israeli

    Share a long wooden table with university students at this restaurant named for a soup pot and enjoy an ever-changing menu of hearty soups and...Read More

  • 3. Hasabichiya

    $ | Center City | Israeli

    The sign is only in Hebrew at this hole-in-the-wall stand, which features what many say is the best sabich in the city. Thin slices of fried...Read More

  • 4. Hummus Ben Sira

    $ | Center City | Middle Eastern

    Everyone from students to sanitation workers shares elbow space at this casual eatery's long bar inlaid with Armenian painted tiles. The hummus...Read More

  • 5. Hummus Lina

    $ | Christian Quarter | Middle Eastern

    With an upstairs dining area, Lina offers a respite from the hubbub of the Old City. Hand-ground hummus is the main event here, and you can...Read More

  • 6. Iwo's

    $$ | Center City | Fast Food

    Consistently ranked among the country's best burger places, Iwo's was founded by a butcher and serves expertly grilled patties on pillowy rolls...Read More

  • 7. Oren and Yani

    $ | Center City | Sandwiches

    Locals swear by this deli's inexpensive sandwiches, which come piled high with smoked meats, exotic cheeses, or pickled herring. Meat and dairy...Read More

  • 8. Rahmo

    $$ | Center City | Israeli

    You'll probably smell this eatery long before you see it: rich stews of eggplant, potatoes, and meat cook all day on kerosene burners, and the...Read More

  • 9. Village Green

    $ | Center City | Vegetarian

    Near Zion Square, this airy vegetarian restaurant prides itself on the quality of its soups, salads, and quiches. Many ingredients are organic...Read More

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