There is a ton of food to be consumed in Jerusalem. Sadly most of it is overpriced. So it is no surprise that when we ate well in the city, it was mainly at little family run stalls. Not quite street food as we are used to in Asia, but close enough! Read on for the highlights of the food and restaurants we loved in Jerusalem.
Jahnoun seems like it might be just another sandwich shop inside the Machane Yehuda market. But it's so much more than that. Yes, they do have sandwiches, and yes, you can pick the ingredients that you add, but they also have shakshuka and a dish called a Jahnoun. After consulting with the uncharacteristically nice guy at the counter who suggested we try the namesake dish, we were all in. We added some fried cauliflower and decided to have the hardboiled egg that came along with it. The Jahnoun is nothing special to look at. When it came to us it was rolled up and sort of looked like a churro. But the guy suggested unrolling it and putting the tomato, cauliflower and egg on top and eating it that way. We were so glad to follow his advice. The jahnoun was flaky and buttery and provided an excellent contrast to the other flavors and tastes we had on the plate. This is definitely worth your time and shekels when you are in the market.
I do believe there are tons of reviews out there for Cafe Kadosh and I also believe the vast majority of them are glowing. And they glow for a good reason. This place is fantastic. It's a bit of a throwback in terms of decor but the menu is very updated and has so much to choose from. The service was fantastic and we liked this place so well that we ate dinner here on our last night in Jerusalem and decided to head back again the following morning before heading out the the Judean desert.
For dinner we both chose salads, though mine was much larger than Zac's. It was so nice to have such a selection of fresh vegetables on my bowl. The portions are large so either split something or be ready to be really full. We saw many people around us enjoying shakes and desserts but we stuck to the veg. The server also said they make their pasta from scratch each day and it did look amazing. Fast forward to breakfast. We were told they open at 7:30 so we promptly arrived and we surprised to hear that the kitchen wasn't making any breakfast at that time. Even after asking, the server wasn't sure when they would start. In the meantime, we could enjoy some coffee and croissants or other baked goods. For those that know me, you know I am a morning person and you know that I am hungry before 8am. So for me to sit and wait to see when the kitchen was to open was really hard! But I practiced some patience and had a mint tea while Zac had his morning coffee. Luckily the kitchen was ready shortly thereafter and I was able to quench my hunger with a perfectly balanced and refreshing bowl of muesli with granola and fruit (my favorite way to begin a day) and Zac had the shakshouka which he really enjoyed. We were certainly tempted by the amazing looking croissants, etc. but thought the better of our waistlines and so left without partaking.
I swear the best falafel I had was at a small stall in the Old City called 2 Arches. Not 'Between the Arches' but '2 Arches'; though searching for it in Google yielded no results. The falafel at this place were freshly made before my eyes and topped with fabulous pickles and cabbage. This was really a standout falafel sandwich for me. Zac had the chicken shewarma which he raved about and was a leading contender for best shewarma until he had one at a random stall in Tiberias. Sorry if this puts you on a wild goose chase, but it might be fun!
The ka'ek is an oval shaped sesame seed covered bagel. They're best to get straight out of the oven early in the morning (we didn't fancy the ones that were on carts all over town). You may use these to dip in your hummus at breakfast or pull the sides apart and smash a falafel in between for a more satisfying meal. We first had these on our food tour with Urban Adventures, but then went back to the same bakery on our own. We're certain they charged us extra for being tourists but that's ok, since they were so good.
Zalatimo's Sweets was another specialty that was introduced to us on our Urban Adventures tour of the Old City. In short, this was a handmade thin as papyrus cheese filled rose syrup touched delight called a mutabek. Not enough adjectives for you? Well here are some more. Delicate, perfect, flaky, and balanced sweetness. That about sums up the mutabek in a nut shell. It was even more fun to watch it being made before our eyes by a family member of the long standing Zalatimos.
Machane Yehuda Market
The Mchane Yehuda Market just must be on your list if you are interested in feeding yourself while in Jerusalem. There's a dizzying array of nut, fruit, cheese, fish, veg, spice, bread and sweets vendors that it is absolutely possible to lose your way inside the confines of the market. But wander around and you will also find some amazing cafes and restaurants at which to satisfy yourself with either a sit down or takeaway option.
We purchased a lot from the Yehuda Market in the three times we came here and each time included a stop at an amazing deli for some prepared salads and lentil balls. I wish I could tell you the name, but alas, it was in Hebrew and I have no idea where to even begin. There's always a line of hungry folk and a treasure of pre-made salads waiting to be purchased.
We also custom made a juice at this really great juice shop. After a little research we found this juice shop and it's called Uzi Eli. You will know it because they have many juices spinning around inside plastic containers outside their store. The colors alone will draw you in and then you will be hooked when you start reading the signs about the benefits of drinking each juice. Zac had the passionfruit juice and I had a custom green juice that was amazing. Once you've tired of the heavy hummus and falafel, cleanse your palate with one of these amazingly fresh juices. Your belly will thank you.
And finally, we stopped at one of the nut and dried fruit shops for a little snack to eat on our way to the desert. We were overwhelmed by this point and really struggling with making choices, but the shop keeper was super patient with us and let us try several things. We settled on some very salty peanuts, some amazing dried pineapple and these naturally sun dried Afghani raisins. Honestly, these were the darkest, most beautiful raisins I have ever eaten. They lacked the sweetness you associate with the 'normal' raisins we eat and were absolutely addictive. They were not cheap, but if you can find them, they are well worth the splurge.
Bonus Materials: Zalatimo crafting our treat & Google Map
Google Map of Food & Restaurants We Loved in Jerusalem (beta)
Many of our favorite foods in Jerusalem are hard to find. That's mainly because we ran across them while walking about, bought something and then later tried to find them again either IRL or on the internet. And most of these family run businesses (like Zalatimo) don't give two hoots about the internet. So we created this handy and somewhat accurate map of the foods we loved. Warning. This is in beta and may not really be totally accurate. But wandering is 1/2 the fun, right?