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. 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

  • 3. Eucalyptus

    $$$$ | Center City | Middle Eastern

    Chef Moshe Basson, repeated winner of international couscous contests, has mined the kitchens of older Jewish and Arab women to revive nearly...Read More

  • 4. 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

  • 5. Barood

    $$$ | Center City | Middle Eastern

    Jerusalemite Daniella Lerer combines her family's Sephardic culinary traditions with modern Israeli cooking techniques and personal favorites...Read More

  • 6. 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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  • 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. 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

  • 9. Hasandwich Shel Rachel

    $$ | Baka | Middle Eastern

    This Tunisian hole-in-the-wall offers pillowy hand-rolled couscous, slow-cooked stews, and zingy tuna and egg sandwiches, served outside on...Read More

  • 10. 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

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. Ima

    $$ | Center City | Middle Eastern

    With a name that means "Mom," Ima honors the owner's Kurdish-Jewish mother, who inspired many of the excellent traditional Middle Eastern offerings...Read More

  • 14. 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

  • 15. 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

  • 16. 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

  • 17. Steakiyat Hatzot

    $$$ | Center City | Middle Eastern

    Down the block from the Machaneh Yehuda produce market, Agrippas Street has some of Jerusalem's best-known greasy spoons. Loyalists claim that...Read More

  • 18. 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

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