I am spending a month working in Jerusalem and would appreciate guidance from those of you out there who were here recently: both casual and more special, in Jerusalem and within a reasonable driving distance (though not too close to the Lebanon border just now). Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Try the Cinematheque. They have a restaurant with outside seating and a great view of the Old City.
The workers' restaurants around Mehane Yehuda market are generally really great and cheap. Many of them specialize in certain kinds of dishes (grills, stews, etc) and some sell pre-cooked stews etc by weight. Sima Restaurant on Agrippas across from Mehane Yehuda is an excellent one of this type - terrific grilled chicken hearts and Jerusalem mixed grill (careful - includes organ meats), and they supply all the mezze for free (you get full off the mezze before your meat arrives!). There are a number of Kurdish workers' restaurants there on Agrippas - get the red kubbe soup (sour beet soup with meat dumplings). Taami, in downtown very close to the Midrechov, has great hummus and terrible service (those two features often go together, unfortunately).
Nearby, at Abu Ghosh (an Arab village about 10 minutes up the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road), are some great restaurants. The one called Abu Ghosh Restaurant is consistently excellent.
On Yoel Solomon St, also downtown, is a place called Shanty. This is more of an upscale place and has excellent food, kind of modern-Middle-Eastern-Mediterranean.
If you go to the Old City, a block or two inside Damascus Gate is a little bakery that specializes in knafeh be'jiben, which is an Arabic pastry with cheese, served warm, with a bright orange topping. You'll see it in the window of the bakery, or you can ask around for the best knafeh (pronounced K'NAH-feh).
You can't go wrong with any of the falafel places around Mahane Yehuda. Ask around at the market for a good one - same with shawarma.
Also be sure to try all the other street food - especially burekas (savory pastries filled with cheese, mushrooms, potatoes or spinach) and the fresh-squeezed juice stands you see everywhere... good ones to try are pomegranate-mango, limonana (fresh mint lemonade), sabres (prickly pear - my favorite juice), and cantaloupe-mint.
Dolphin Yam, on Rehov Ben Shetach, is a very good fish place, upscale.
If you decide to go to East Jerusalem - which I wouldn't go to, but I'm Israeli - Philadelphia restaurant is one of the very best Middle Eastern restaurants I've ever been to. Try the stuffed carrots.
In Ein Kerem (up near Hadassah Hospital), the restaurant called Lebanese Restaurant (sign with a big cedar tree) is quite good, especially for Lebanese specialties like stuffed vegetables, and for the grill.
Have fun and be careful.
I second ayana's recommendation of knafeh be'jiben in the Old City. Just follow your nose. Not far from there is a place selling excellent tiny little falafel -- hot, fresh, lemony and herby.
Also there are excellent little "armenian pizzas" with ground lamb or cheese at a women's co-operative bakery in the Christian quarter just inside the New Gate.
Jerusalem Hotel in East Jerusalem (near the Nablus Road bus stops) has pretty good mixed grills (no organ meats!) -- try it with very cold Taybeh beer. There is live music to go with it on Friday nights.
And for a blow-out meal of mezze and grilled meats, plus the ambience of foreign correspondents, go to the Ambassador Hotel in east Jerusalem. Their big outside room with couches and low tables is beautiful on a hot evening. Watch out for the cats.
Down near Emek Refaim is a stand called "Falafel Darom,"--I used to go there once a week. I am more of a shwarma girl than a falafel girl, but both are good there. The German Colony also has lots of upscale Americanesque restaurants now--Joy Bar, Olives, etc.
I second the Sima's recommendation near Machane Yehuda.
For a special meal, Darna in the Russian Compound is wonderful--they brought all of the decor from Morocco. Make sure they give you the cold tomato salad if you get the assorted mezze.
I like Cafe Atara on Rechov Azza for their french onion soup and atmosphere.
Definitely get to Abu Ghosh.
Mmmmmm....now I am missing Jerusalem even more!!!
ther are 2 great restaurants side by side in the old city.
one is Menorah Cafe, fore of a fine dining type place small cozy great service waiters know english. they have a wide menu of pastas wines coffes salads fish and soups. it is dairy kosher le mehadrin 026289944 70 hayehudim st. in the jewish quarter across fromt he golden menorah in the cardo.
the other is Menorah Deli and Grill, a meaty place, it has top quility deli meats plus burgers and steaks.
have a great trip. a little cheeper then the dairy
if you also liked eating at menorah restaurants tell me.