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. 1868

    $$$$ | Center City | Israeli

    In an old stone house with a delightful back garden, 1868 is Jerusalem's most innovative, exacting kosher restaurant, on par with the city's...Read More

  • 2. Cielo

    $$$$ | Center City | Italian

    Personable chef Adi Cohen has been serving the same classic dishes from his family's native northern Italy for a couple of decades—and they...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. Talbiye

    $$$$ | Center City | French

    Just beside the Jerusalem Theatre, Talbiye is a cozy neighborhood restaurant and wine bar specializing in French-Israeli cuisine. The soundtrack...Read More

  • 5. Darna

    $$$$ | Center City | Moroccan

    A vaulted tunnel sets you down in a corner of Morocco, complete with imported tiles, inlaid chairs, and a delightful outdoor garden. The salads...Read More

  • 6. Olive & Fish

    $$$ | Center City | Israeli

    Its location near many of the major hotels is part of the appeal, but Olive & Fish also pleases locals with its dependable contemporary...Read More

  • 7. P2 Pizza

    $$ | Center City | Italian

    Grab a seat at the bar and sip a Peroni while you watch the young, friendly staff roll out extra-thin pizza dough in this narrow temple to Italian...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Touro

    $$$$ | Center City | Israeli

    On a hillside opposite Jerusalem's Old City, this is one of the best spots to dine when the stone walls reflect the golden sunset. The menu...Read More

  • 11. Adon Cohen

    $$ | East Talpiot | Israeli

    Levana Cohen has transformed the local grocery store owned by her parents in the grungy Talpiot neighborhood into one of the city's most talked...Read More

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