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. 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

  • 2. Adom

    $$$ | German Colony | Israeli

    The name means "red" in Hebrew, referring to the 150 kinds of wine that decorate every wall in this large yet cozy restaurant. The menu has...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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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  • 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. 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

  • 7. Lavan

    $$$ | Center City | Italian

    At the in-house eatery of the popular Cinematheque, diners delight at the Italian-inspired menu. Many people opt for the fresh fish of the day...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. 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

  • 12. Colony

    $$$ | Baka | Eclectic

    Brown winged leather armchairs and a long bar at the entrance make Colony a great place to share a drink and a leisurely conversation. The space...Read More

  • 13. El Gaucho

    $$$ | Nahalat Shiva | Argentine

    Red meat reigns at this chain Argentinian grill, and the chef here knows how to cook it. The stone building is a little hard to find, but once...Read More

  • 14. Olive

    $$$ | German Colony | Steakhouse

    A German Colony landmark, Olive attracts a more mature crowd that seems to prefer the glass-enclosed, bilevel front yard to the Templar-period...Read More

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