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. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 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. Dolphin Yam

    $$$ | Center City | Seafood

    Hebrew for "Sea Dolphin," this lively eatery serves some of the city's best seafood. The decor is pleasant enough—pale yellow stucco walls,...Read More

  • 6. 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

  • 7. Focaccia Moshava

    $$$ | German Colony | Italian

    This kosher cousin of the popular Downtown restaurant welcomes you with a large display of fresh vegetables and an open taboon oven where...Read More

  • 8. Holy Cafe

    $$ | Jewish Quarter | Israeli

    With wooden tables in the tile-floored dining room and under the trees in the nearby square, this is one of the few full-service restaurants...Read More

  • 9. Nafoura

    $$ | Christian Quarter | Middle Eastern

    Just inside the Jaffa Gate, Nafoura offers a tranquil courtyard for alfresco lunchtime dining. Your table might even lean against the Old City...Read More

  • 10. 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

  • 11. Roza

    $$ | German Colony | Italian

    The varied menu, generous portions, and reasonable prices have made this kosher restaurant a hit with locals in the German Colony. Start with...Read More

  • 12. 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

  • 13. Baba Israeli Kitchen

    $$ | German Colony | Middle Eastern

    This popular chummousiya , as restaurants serving hummus-based dishes are called, is a worthwhile stop for a quick lunch or dinner. Try the...Read More

  • 14. Luciana

    $$ | German Colony | Italian

    Perfect for open-air dining, this Italian-style trattoria has a spacious deck with a good view of bustling Emek Refa'im. Late at night you'll...Read More

  • 15. Racha

    $$ | Downtown | Russian

    Lily and her brother Israel gave up their day jobs to recreate the recipes handed down by their mother, Tina, who hails from the Racha region...Read More

  • 16. Spaghettim

    $$ | Downtown | Italian

    Spaghetti is the main event at this outpost of a national chain, with more than 40 sauces using olive oil, tomato, cream, and butter. Look for...Read More

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