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. Azura

    $ | Center City | Middle Eastern

    Jerusalem is famous for its Kurdish kubbeh soup, made with softball-size meat-and-semolina dumplings, and Azura is the perfect place to try...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. Abu Shukri

    $ | Muslim Quarter | Middle Eastern

    In the heart of the Old City, this place has some of the best hummus in town, served fast to locals crammed around rickety tables under fluorescent...Read More

  • 4. 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

  • 5. Austrian Hospice Café

    $ | Muslim Quarter | Austrian

    This Viennese-style second-floor garden café in a guesthouse for pilgrims is a refined retreat from the chaos of the Old City markets down below...Read More

  • 6. Burgers Bar

    $ | Center City | Fast Food

    At this popular kosher place, the hamburgers are more like cakes than patties. They come with your choice of tasty sauces, and all are made...Read More

  • 7. Costa

    $ | Christian Quarter | Middle Eastern

    Steps from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Palestinians crowd into this tiny spot to tuck into hammam mehshi, or stuffed pigeon. It's a...Read More

  • 8. Deitsch

    $ | Center City | Polish

    Cholent is a dish that evolved from necessity: Jewish law forbids cooking on the Sabbath, and so observant Jews often start a stew on Friday...Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Fishenchips

    $ | Center City | British

    Shlomi Ohana's tiny fish-and-chips emporium in the heart of the vegetable market offers fresh selections direct from his father Haim's seafood...Read More

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. 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

  • 14. Holy Rock Café

    $ | Muslim Quarter | Middle Eastern

    Between Stations VI and VII of the Via Dolorosa is the very good Holy Rock Café. The name may be a little hokey, but there's nothing wrong with...Read More

  • 15. 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

  • 16. 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

  • 17. 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

  • 18. 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

  • 19. Pinati

    $ | Center City | Middle Eastern

    When aficionados of local standards like garlicky hummus, skewered shish kebabs, fried chicken schnitzel, and bean soup argue hotly about the...Read More

  • 20. Sweet Moment

    $ | Center City | Hungarian

    Embroidered doilies cover every table and wall at this adorable eatery, transforming it into a bistro straight out of Budapest. Owner Yigal...Read More

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