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. Azzahra

    $$ | East Jerusalem | Middle Eastern

    On a quiet alley off the main East Jerusalem thoroughfare, this white-tablecloth restaurant in a hotel has long been popular with journalists...Read More

  • 2. Sarwa Street Kitchen

    $ | East Jerusalem | Eclectic

    Brothers Mo and Mick Tahhan opened this cheery café in the space that was once their father's travel agency with the vision of creating a gathering...Read More

  • 3. American Colony Hotel

    $ | East Jerusalem | Café

    This upscale hotel is an elegant 19th-century limestone building with cane furniture, Armenian ceramic tiles, and a delightful courtyard. The...Read More

  • 4. Askadinya

    $$ | East Jerusalem | Eclectic

    At this East Jerusalem bistro, the stone walls are hung with local art and antique musical instruments. In summer, you can enjoy your meal on...Read More

  • 5. Cardo

    $$$ | East Jerusalem | Middle Eastern

    The terraced restaurant atop the Legacy Hotel has a beautiful view, but the real art is on the plate. Award-winning chef Johnny Goric is a judge...Read More

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  • 6. Educational Bookshop

    $ | East Jerusalem | Middle Eastern

    Part coffee shop, part bookstore, this spot has an endless trove of literature exploring the Arab-Israeli conflict from a Palestinian perspective...Read More

  • 7. Philadelphia

    $$$ | East Jerusalem | Middle Eastern

    Steps from the Old City, this East Jerusalem landmark has been in business for decades—a thank-you note from President Jimmy Carter proves it...Read More

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