40 things you have to eat in JerusalemThe faithful may rhapsodize about the spiritual highs to be reached in the Old City; culture cognoscenti groove on the offerings of dozens of theaters, performance venues and museums. But the true Jerusalem lover knows that the city's greatest attraction is, well, somewhat more tangible - and more edible.
The faithful may rhapsodize about the spiritual highs to be reached in the Old City; culture cognoscenti groove on the offerings of dozens of theaters, performance venues and museums. But the true Jerusalem lover knows that the city's greatest attraction is, well, somewhat more tangible - and more edible.
You can take in all the epic Jerusalem vistas you want, but you'll never really understand the city until you've eaten your way through its mountains of varied and amazingly delicious food. The "gathering of the exiles" here means that almost every culture you can think of from around the world has a flavor represented, so don't even think about leaving your home or hotel without being duly apprised of these 40 things you absolutely must eat while you're in Jerusalem.
1. Knafeh (pictured), an Arab treat made of layers of bright orange shredded phyllo dough and melted goat cheese drenched in syrupy sweet rosewater, is certainly an acquired taste - but those who have acquired it are known to jones for the famous knafeh at Jaffar's.
2. Fight your way through sugar-starved crowds of seminary girls and American expats for a taste of the infamously pine rugelach at Machane Yehuda bakery Marzipan.
3. Called beigeleh in Hebrew and ka'ak in Arabic (not to be confused with the smaller, more cookie-like ka'ak in the rest of the Arab world), you can't miss this only-in-Jerusalem specialty: enormous loops of bagel-ish bread coated in sesame seeds, sold by mobile vendors all over the Christian and Muslim Quarters of the Old City. Buy a loop of beigeleh and you'll also get a little packet of za'atar (an oregano-based spice blend) for dipping.
4. Make your Sabbaths sweeter with a roll of sweet challah (challah metukah) from the Pe'er Bakery behind Emek Refaim Street.
5. Sabich (pictured) is the ultimate answer to those who claim Israel has no indigenous cuisine, because you won't find it anywhere else in the world. Created by Iraqi Jewish immigrants in Ramat Gan, a sabich is a pita stuffed to bursting with fried eggplant slices, sliced long-cooked hard-boiled eggs, hummus and pickles, then topped off with a generous drizzle of amba, a lip-smacking pickled mango sauce. Try it at HaSabichiya, which sells nothing else.
6. Dip your spoon into a generous helping of malabi (blancmange, almond-and-rosewater pudding). It's available as a dessert in Middle Eastern restaurants all over town, especially in the summer months.
7. Need we even say it? A trip to Jerusalem means the best falafel you'll ever have in your life. Treat yourself to falafel with all the fixings (hummus, Israeli salad, Turkish salad, pickles, pickled cabbage, French fries, hot sauce and tehina) at Moshiko, an exemplary falafel kiosk on the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall.
8. As the sages say, where there is falafel, there is also shawarma. Made of spiced strips of meat (possibly chicken, turkey or lamb, depending on the location) layered atop each other on a rotating spit, you'll find it almost everywhere you turn. Load it up with the same fixings as you'll find with falafel, and you won't be disappointed.
9. Once upon a time, meorav Yerushalmi (Jerusalem mixed grill, pictured) was only for advanced gourmands, but in today's climate of worldwide offal-mad food trendery, we feel safe recommending this delicious Jerusalem delicacy to all visitors. The concept is simple: all the variety parts of your humble neighborhood chicken chopped up and griddled with onions and Middle Eastern spices, then stuffed into a pita. Try it at Chatzot, the home of the original.
10. Try lepeshka, the traditional round, crispy and fluffy bread of the Bukharan (Central Asian) Jewish community, at one of the old-school bakeries in the Shuk ha-Bukharim (Bukharan Market) near the Orthodox enclave of Me'ah Shearim. The black caraway seeds on top lend an earthy flavor.
11. Soul food from the Kurdish grandma you never had, red kubeh soup is a Jerusalem classic: meat-stuffed bulgur-and-semolina dumplings floating in a tangy broth of beets and root vegetables. The best is at Mordoch.
12. Coffee slushies are the original Jerusalem air conditioning. Try a classic Ice Aroma at the original branch of the Cafe Aroma coffee chain.
13. The word sambusak (pictured) is derived from the same Persian word that gives us samosa, and anyone who's enjoyed that Indian treat will be on familiar ground here. Traditionally, the tri-cornered fried sambusak are filled with mashed chickpeas, but you can also find them with ground meat or mashed potatoes. Get them fresh and hot from Machane Yehuda vendors on Friday afternoons.
14. What is the Middle East without tasty skewered meats? Kebabs, called shipudim (skewers) in Hebrew, are ubiquitous. You can't go wrong with Machane Yehuda's landmark HaShipudiya.
15. A laffa (soft, round Iraqi flatbread) is a laffa everywhere in the world except Jerusalem, where you might find it curiously referred to as an eish tanur ("oven flame"). You can pick up freshly made eish tanur at any Jerusalem bakery, the best of them being in Machane Yehuda, but the most inviting way to eat one might be wrapped around falafel or shawarma.
16. Create your own blend of fresh-squeezed-to-order fruit juices at Tutti Frutti on the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall.
17. Eat a perfect piece of strudel (pictured) and enjoy the commanding view of the Old City at the Austrian Hospice cafe.
18. If the Machane Yehuda market's resident Yemenite witch doctor is to be believed, etrog-and-gat juice will cure whatever ails you, from nicotine addiction to impotence to the common cold. Take that with a grain of salt, but the juice is pretty tasty.
19. A beloved dish among Jerusalem's Arab population, musakhan is made of roasted chicken, onion and pine nuts served atop pieces of flatbread. Try it from vendors in the Muslim Quarter, or at Damascus Gate-area institution Philadelphia.
20. If you happen to be in town in December, try a sufganiya (filled Chanukah donut) in a variety of flavors at Roladin.
21. If you eat hummus in Jerusalem, you will never be able to enjoy it outside of the Middle East again. Still, it's worth it. Any of the top five hummus restaurants in Jerusalem won't let you down.
22. Around the Damascus Gate, you'll find coffee vendors who dispense hot Arab-style coffee from strange golden contraptions strapped to their backs. Worth it for the experience alone.
24. Commonly referred to as the Palestinian national dish, maqlouba (in the local pronunciation, ma'alouba) is an inverted casserole of lamb, eggplant and rice. Many restaurants in eastern Jerusalem serve admirable versions, and locavore temple Eucalyptus has won raves for their take.
25. Midnight Belgian waffles covered in syrup and cream (pictured) just, somehow, make sense when mingling with Jerusalem's nightlife crowd. Don't miss the waffles on offer at tiny Babette's, at the foot of Shammai Street.
26. Try a procession of traditional Western European (and strictly kosher) sausages at Hess, down the street from the Russian Compound.
27. You'll never forget your first "Arabic pizza" at the Old City's Green Door Pizza Bakery. It is, shall we say, not what you might expect.
28. Savor a slow-cooked tagine of lamb in painstakingly authentic surroundings at Darna, Jerusalem's finest Moroccan restaurant.
29. Jachnun (pictured) is difficult to describe, but try to imagine a Yemenite pancake made of layers of phyllo dough rolled up into a tube and slow-cooked in an oven overnight - then served with pureed tomato and fenugreek salsa for dipping. Strange, but good. Try at it Jachnun Bar.
30. Scoop up kitfo (raw, spiced minced beef) or shiro wat (a spicy sauce of chickpea flour and clarified butter) with injera at Shegar, a well-hidden Ethiopian restaurant off Agrippas Street.
31. Carbo-load on tasty rolls from Cafe Avichayil.
32. Come winter, do not miss out on sachlab, a hot, gelatinous pudding-drink made from the root of a certain kind of orchid, usually topped with coconut shavings, nuts and cinnamon powder. Vendors in Machane Yehuda, and elsewhere in town, sell it, but the best is probably at 24-hour cafe Mifgash HaSheikh.
33. You may think Dona Fresca is only a (pretty good) pizzeria, but it also specializes in tasty little cream puffs (pictured), which you owe it to yourself to try.
34. Get a bourekas (puff pastry stuffed with cheese, spinach or potatoes) complet-style, with hardboiled egg, pickles and tehina on the side, at the 24-hour Turkish Bourekas restaurant on Jaffa Road.
35.The landmark Emek Refaim espresso bar and eatery Caffit is famed for its "Oreganato," a monstrous salad filled with fresh herbs, vegetables and local cheese. Don't miss it.
36. Try a lamb cassoulet with olives and Swiss chard at French-Med restaurant Adom.
37. Score some rare buffalo mozzarella on a margherita pizza at Emek Refaim's Luciana (pictured).
38. Eat a Basque breakfast at beautiful Rechavia cafe Restobar.
39. For an authentic Middle Eastern treat, try the lokum (Turkish delight) at one of the Muslim Quarter's sweets shops.
40. Head to an Arab bakery in the Old City for lahmajun, a sort of Middle Eastern pizza of toppings on tasty flatbread.
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