The top five Ashkenazi food joints in Jerusalem
Many Jews are surprised upon arrival in Jerusalem to learn that the streets are not paved with gefilte fish, that the matza ball is trumped by the mighty falafel ball, and that deli meats are most commonly poultry-based and served on baguettes with a slather of hummus instead of corned beef on pumpernickel with spicy brown mustard.
Yes, it seems that while Israel is home to a large portion of Eastern and Central European Ashkenazi Jewry, most that came here left their kasha and kishkes behind, instead adopting couscous and lamb as their foods of choice. But there are still a staunch few who keep the old country alive in the oldest of countries, and when it comes to Ashkenazi soul food, there's no place like Jerusalem to eat just like you used to in the shtetl. Below are GoJerusalem.com's picks for the best Ashkenazi restaurants in town.
If the name doesn't tip you off that this isn't your uncle Moshe's falafel stand, then the-mile high stacks of sliced deli meat inside should. Hess is the kind of place in which Billy Crystal or Larry David would feel comfortable, if they ever visited Jerusalem. But beyond the sandwiches that hearken back to that other old country, New York, Hess prides itself on being the sausage king of Jerusalem, with the best kosher wurst this side of the Rhine. And of course, standbys like shnitzel and goulash are on hand as well.
Not all Ashkenazi food has to be schmaltzy. Kedma is a classy joint where lamb tagines commingle with spatzle and corned beef. Set atop the Alrov Mamilla outdoor shopping mall, Kedma has earned its place as one of Jerusalem's better eateries, serving customers what can best be termed as comfort food. Whether you come from a place where chopped liver reigns supreme, or find eastern fare, like eggplant biladi, more palatable, Kedma's got what you want.
Not surprisingly, the further you venture into Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox strongholds, especially on the north side of town, the more authentically Ashkenazi food (and dress, and language) you'll find. Next to Meah Shearim's Shabbat Square, the center of Jerusalem's haredi population, you'll find the restaurant Deutsch, an iconic counter-service joint where kreplach and kishkes runs through its veins. The restaurant is popular for those looking for authentic Shabbat food without having to cook any (or without waiting another six days), and one bite may make you forget that schawarma even exists.
The name is Yiddish for home-style food, and what can you really say after that? Located in that other Ashkenazi stronghold of Rechavia, Heimeshe Essen has become a favorite among locals looking for a taste of home, assuming home is a pre-war shtetl. With tzimmes, kugels, chopped liver, roasted chicken and more Ashkenazi food lining the cafeteria-style restaurant than you can shake a kichel at, this is one place you can take your yiddishe mama and not have to worry about her fretting.
No list of Ashkenazi food would be complete without New Deli, one of Jerusalem's favorite institutions. The closest thing Israel has to an American-style deli counter, New Deli offers customers stacks of various types of sliced meat, including corned beef, roast beef and turkey. And yes, they do have sauerkraut. Don't ask for rye bread or real dill pickles, though - this is still Israel, after all. Still, New Deli's temple to the pita-less life has earned quite a following among yeshiva students, tourists, and has likewise won over the Jerusalemite mainstream, so it's no wonder that branches of the chain, which offers delivery, are popping up all over town and even expanding to other parts of the country as well.
For those looking to make their own Eastern European and American style meals, the Chofetz Chaim store (at Agripas St. 8, 02-623-2839) near the Machane Yehuda market is the place to go. With shelves lined with spicy brown mustard, duck sauce, relish and frozen goods just like bubby used to freeze, you won't want to make a deli roll or lukshen kugel without stopping here first.
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