Exploring a city’s culinary heritage is undoubtedly one of the highlights of travelling. While famed for its more informal falafel and hummus joints, Jerusalem’s thriving gastronomic scene also offers numerous sophisticated restaurants that rely on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Culture Trip has hand-picked a selection of fine- and casual-dining establishments inspired by local tastes. Keep in mind that most restaurants in Jerusalem are closed from Friday evenings to Saturday until after sunset to respect the Sabbath (the Jewish day of rest).
With its quiet ambience and eye-catching stone archways, Anna Italian Cafe emerges like an oasis in Jerusalem’s Downtown Triangle. Located inside the historic Ticho House, one of the first homes built outside the Old City in the 1860s, Anna Italian is a kosher restaurant that uses high-quality ingredients to create an array of classic Italian dishes. One of the café’s signature dishes is the gnocchi, freshly made using parmesan and ricotta cheese and topped with cream, asparagus and cherry tomatoes. It’s a perfect setting for a family outing, Friday brunch or a romantic dinner. Also, the menu is moderately priced and vegetarian-friendly. After lunch, take a look downstairs at the museum that features work by the artist Anna Ticho.
Located in and named after the Mahane Yehuda Market, Machneyuda is one of Jerusalem’s most well-known restaurants. Acclaimed local chefs Assaf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon run the restaurant, which was established in 2009. Machneyuda’s colourful interior and eclectic decor pair perfectly with its menu of modern Israeli and Mediterranean dishes, which change daily to reflect what’s available at the local market. The open interior allows diners to watch the chefs while they prepare recipes such as sea bass with fresh market vegetables. As this is one of the most popular dining spots in the city, it’s recommended to make reservations.
Situated in the Azzahra Hotel in a quiet part of East Jerusalem, the aptly named Azzahra Restaurant opened its doors more than five decades ago. Tourists and families flock to this casual restaurant for authentic and inexpensive Palestinian fare, such as mujjadara (lentil rice pilaf), mansaf (lamb cooked in yoghurt) and fattoush salad. Azzahra also boasts a selection of delectable pizzas prepared in a traditional brick oven – a rare find in the Middle East. Add in a friendly environment and good service, and Azzahra is a must-visit restaurant during any trip to the Holy City.
High above Jerusalem’s stone streets and its limestone walls is Rooftop, an outdoor lounge and restaurant that offers unparalleled views of the city. Located on the roof of the elegant Mamilla Hotel just outside the Old City, this kosher restaurant has gained a reputation for its lavish cocktails, extensive wine list and sophisticated dishes. The organic chicken with pumpkin cream and roasted zucchini and the grouper shawarma with spicy tomato salad both come highly recommended. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. It’s more expensive than some of the other eateries on this list, but the atmosphere and scenic views from Rooftop make it worth the visit. For these reasons, reservations are a must.
Located near the city centre on King George Avenue, across the street from Independence Park, Chakra opened its doors in 2000 and has become one of the city’s leading restaurants. Under the direction of veteran Jerusalem-born chef Eran Peretz, Chakra serves prime cuts of meat, along with fish and pasta dishes. This venue’s kitchen celebrates the finer aspects of Israeli and Mediterranean cuisine with creative dishes such as lemon garlic cauliflower, sea salt black tiger shrimp, and handmade beetroot tortellini. Patrons can also explore the innovative culinary creations with a tasting menu curated by the chef. Reservations are a must.
No Jerusalem restaurant list would be complete without Azura, a landmark eatery located inside the Iraqi Shuk area of the Mahane Yehuda Market. This no-frills diner is famed for its home-style cooking and features Israeli favourites such as hummus, kebabs, goulash, beans and kibbeh. The simple yet hearty food is slow-cooked atop old-fashioned kerosene burners until everything is tender and juicy. Named after Ezra ‘Azura’ Shrefler, who immigrated to Israel from Turkish Kurdistan, the restaurant opened in 1952. It is one of the city’s prime lunchtime places, meaning you might have to stand in line for a table. However, service is lightning fast, so you won’t have to wait long to get a taste of the delicious food at this classic and reasonably priced Jerusalem spot.
This is an updated version of a story created by Carly Minsky.