Jerusalem's best nightlife hot spots are serving top-notch food as well as drinks
Is it a bar or a restaurant? A place to drink or a place to eat? Jerusalem's nightlife scene has in recent years been moving away from these tidy categories, instead offering holistic nights out, with the cool kids now eating, drinking and being merry at popular high-concept bar-restaurant combination establishments.
The trend started picking up momentum in the early days of the new millennium, when Israeli "celebrity chefs" began dominating the dining scene, and Jerusalem's bars started to turn up the volume on their food menus as well, increasing the food offerings' range, sophistication and freshness. After all, just because someone might have knocked back a few, doesn't mean that his or her taste buds have gone completely numb.
The trend here in Jerusalem mirrors the "gastropub" phenomenon popular elsewhere in the Western world, although here in the Holy City, as opposed to England where the concept originated, the establishments offering the applauded chef specialties are more likely to be swanky bars than traditional neighborhood watering holes.
Scenic Ein Kerem's Agua starts the day as a café, morphs into a restaurant for lunch and
parties the night away as a lounge-cum-bar, a favorite hangout for the
neighborhood's students, artists and scenesters. As owner Adi Cohen
tells GoJerusalem.com, the bar-restaurant concept "is a trend that began
in Europe and then caught on here, as European trends often do." Cohen
sees the trend as indicative of maturation among Jerusalem revelers.
"You eat a meal, and then stay and enjoy the bar - it's not just
partying, it's a cultural scene," he notes. "At Agua, we have two
different levels, so we have a unique bar and restaurant with different
music and atmosphere in each."
The aptly named Restobar in Rechavia boasts a separate smoking and sports viewing section, as well as a
daytime menu that would make any gastronome proud, while at night, Restobar is all about the
lively dinner-and-drinks scene. Proprietor Shachar Levi tells GoJerusalem.com that he draws inspiration for his establishment from his observations while traveling in Europe, where "a lot of restaurants became active bars at night.
I saw this in Turin, in Milan - it happens all over."
But Levi asserts that he's doing something no one else is, which is grounded in the seamless segues between a variety of Restobar vibes. "We function as a café in the day, turn into a business lunch place at midday, a family restaurant for dinner and a bar at night," he says. "We have outdoor seating a special indoor smoking section, which facilitate the transition. With our nice décor, we attract an older crowd that's looking for something classy."
The options for hot bar-restaurants around town can sometimes seem limitless. Adom, located in downtown's Feingold Courtyard, is a highly rated bistro with a massive wine list. Cavalier's menu changes with the season, and the restaurant takes a European-style mid-day siesta, so that it can run a party that lasts into the wee hours, with bar service continuing to 2:00 AM seven days a week. Elsewhere, the restaurant/bar which revolutionized the scene on Derech Beit Lechem, Colony features four different rooms - a bit of something for everyone - with a dedicated dining room, a sophisticated bar area, a cushioned chill-out lounge and an upstairs seating area for those who prefer low-key privacy.
Herzl, on downtown's Rivlin Street, offers a full meat menu and caters to a student crowd that knows how to party and wants their meat cooked to international standards. Dublin, in the heart of downtown's pedestrian mall, is a warehouse-sized, theme park-like bar with Irish beer on tap and a full menu including kabobs, schnitzel in beer batter and other tasty bar-meals.
However, it's Shlomtzion Hamalka Street, connecting the main stretch of Jaffa Road to the Mamilla neighborhood, that has emerged as the center of the Jerusalem bar-restaurant action, with a number of these establishments and the aptly named Shlomtzi (two bars, leather décor and an impressive menu) leading the pack, although the phenomenon has spread throughout Jerusalem.
One of the leaders of the food-pub revolution, Chakra has somewhat recently moved from the Shlomtzion zone to a new location below Cup O' Joe near Independence Park. The Indian-named bar hopes to attract the post-trek generation of Israelis with international fusion cuisine (including seafood), a fine liquor and wine selection and chandelier lighting.
And the after-ten-dinner-and-drinks places are hardly the only ones offering full-fledged menus. Even regular, full-on bars like Mike's Place, Cnaan, HaTza'atzua, O'Connel, and the Mamilla Hotel's Mirror Bar now offer full food menus with plenty of flair.
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