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. Café Yehoshua

    $$ | Center City | American

    One of the restaurants that locals flock to for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Café Yehoshua offers an Israeli take on American diner food. The...Read More

  • 2. Menza

    $$$ | City Center | Israeli

    Sink into one of Menza's retro-style banquettes or take a seat around a robust wooden table for a deliciously prepared meal in this lovely café...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Caffit

    $$ | German Colony | Café

    This German Colony institution, part of a chain, is well-known for its sweet potato soup and juicy salmon skewers. Morning meals are generous...Read More

  • 5. Halitatea

    $ | Center City | Café

    This teahouse in an alley, barely visible from the street, imports dozens of organic, fair-trade specialty leaves, especially from India, Sri...Read More

  • 6. Hamiznon Kitchen Station

    $$ | German Colony | Israeli

    In the former cafeteria of Jerusalem's train station, this casual eatery prints its menus on newspaper broadsheet and has maintained more than...Read More

  • 7. Nocturno

    $ | Center City | Café

    Part of a workshop space for local artists, this landmark café has a fun and funky atmosphere. The menu is rich with sandwiches filled with...Read More

  • 8. Tmol Shilshom

    $$ | Center City | Israeli

    The name—a Hebrew literary phrase that translates roughly as "yesteryear"—is a clue to the character of the place. A tiny passageway leads to...Read More

  • 9. Trattoria Haba

    $$ | Center City | Israeli

    The son of a prominent family of Iraqi bakers founded this airy, spacious bistro featuring fresh breads, pastries, and pastas. It's considered...Read More

  • 10. Zuni

    $$$ | Center City | American

    In this elegantly clubby version of the 24-hour diner, you can enjoy a wide variety of breakfast options, from the traditional English breakfast...Read More

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