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First trip to Israel in 30 years

For most of the trip, our "base" will be an apartment in the German Colony in Jerusalem. We will have access to a car.

Seeking Recommendations
1) Good places to shop for food? (supermarkets, takeout for shabbat.)
2) Restaurants? meat? dairy? vegetarian/vegan?

General Questions
1) I hear that there are different "degrees" of kosher in restaurants. Can someone explain?
2) How hard is it to find kosher restaurants outside of Jerusalem?

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  1. Here are some of my favorite restaurants: Yo-Ja (Asia), Village Green (veggie/vegan stuff), Kohinoor (Indian), KFC (fast-food), Ethio-Israel (Ethiopian. Tasty, but didn't have half the things on their menu the night we were there), Gavna (dairy/fish, in Bat Ayin--beautiful view at sunset, esp. if you get an outside table), Masaryk (dairy/fish), Cafe Rimon (only had dessert there), Eucalyptus (meat. Uses many native herbs & foods of the land of Israel).

    4 Replies
    1. re: queenscook

      Eucalyptus has been closed for at least 4 years. I went looking for it, because it had such interesting reviews on line; I must have traipsed over every part of Saffra Square at least three times before I realised it just wasn't there.

      As of 4 years ago I couldn't find an Ethiopian place in Y'm with a hechsher; I've never had Ethiopian food, and wanted to try it, but none of the places I found had any kind of hechsher at all.

      I've eaten at Koh-i-noor once, and was singularly unimpressed. The food was bland - not bad, but not worth going out of my way for, and nowhere near as good as the kosher veggie Indian places in NY, or the fleishing place that used to exist in Queens.

      1. re: zsero

        Eucalyptus opened up again; we ate there last summer. It's in a different place, but it is definitely there. And Ethio-Israel had a rabbanut hechsher; we ate there this past summer as well. Check eluna.com for addresses and hechsherim; these two are actually one after the other on eluna's list of restaurants in Yerushalayim. Since I only eat in places with what my Rav considers reliable hechshers, I haven't eaten in the kosher veggie Indian places in NY, and have no recollection of the fleishig one in Queens (and certainly never ate there).

        1. re: queenscook

          So I see. I look forward to trying both on my next trip (not sure when that will be, so these places had better not close soon!) I am glad that Eucalyptus is back, even in a "small" format. Its menu sounds so interesting.

          1. re: queenscook

            Our rabbi also doesn't accept the hechshers of any of the self-proclaimed kosher Indian places in the NYC area; too bad... they look damned good! Fortunately, there's now a truly kosher (meat) kosher Indian restaurant in Teaneck, NJ; haven't been there yet.

            I do remember - years ago - eating at a kosher Indian restaurant on Queens Blvd in Queens, NY. I remember it being good, but I forgot the name of it.

      2. Firstly welcome to Israel
        The main street in the German Colony is Emek Refaim St. Every building literally has a restuarant and/ or coffee shop and most are Kosher. Anything you want can be found there. There is also an overflow to Derech Beit Lechem which is parallel.

        As for shopping there is a private supermarket on Emek Refaim with ridiculous prices and some chain stores on Palmach but the best bet is to drive 5 minutes to the Talpiot commercial zone where you can find the Supersol Deal, Rami Levi and Mega Supermarkets with great selections (all Kosher) and hundres of other stores

        As to Hechsherim the law states that the local Rabbinate is the one empowered to give supervison to an establishment within its borders. This could be either regular Kashrut or Mehadrin (which usually means Glatt meat and that the leafy vegatables are "Gush Katif,).
        Additionally there are private supervisory organization such as the Badatz Eida Charedi and Rabbi Machfud which should be in addition to the Jerusalem Rabbinate. If there is only a private hechscher the food is not necessarily unkosher, it is just that the establishment is basically breaking the law

        There are Kosher establishments to be found throughout the country. Just make sure to check the the certificate (Teudah ) is an original, not photocopy and still in effect

        Be Te'avon

        1. The Rabbanut has two levels of hechsher: basic and mehadrin. The mehadrin hechsher is definitely reliable to the highest standards. The basic hechsher is about on a level with basic American hechsherim - OU, Star K, etc.

          Then there are private hechsherim. Officially every place that claims to be kosher must have at least a basic Rabbanut hechsher, in addition to any private hechsher, but in practise this isn't always the case. Some of the private hechsherim are very reliable, some are very unreliable.

          These are some of the good ones:
          1. Eida Hacharedis
          2. Rav Landau
          3. Rav Rubin
          4. Bet Yosef
          5. Yoreh Deah (Rav Machpud)
          6. Agudat Yisrael

          The following are NOT reliable:
          1. Nezer Hahidur
          2. Keter Kashrut
          3. Nachlat Yitzchak

          Be aware that the term "Badatz" is used by many hechsherim. When people speak of "the Badatz" they mean the badatz of the Eidah Hachareidis, which is indeed super reliable. But many other hechsherim use that term as well, including the bad ones. So if you see "badatz", look more closely to see which one it is.

          1. If you want very good but expensive deli, try Hess, on Heleni Hamalka, across from the Russian Compound.

            Another somewhat unusual place to eat is Tmol Shilshom, which is a sort of library/cafe. The food is dairy, rabbanut hechsher, good for its price; the dishes have bits of poetry on them; there are shelves of books that you can borrow to read while you eat. The bathroom is a bit primitive. And if you bring your own book to read, don't leave it on the table when you go to the bathroom, or someone may helpfully shelve it!

            Cafe Rimon is of course touristy, but the food is good if pricey, and it's open 24/6. Here's one interesting twist: Rimon has two kitchens, and two menus: dairy and meat. The indoor seating is separate, but the "outdoor" seating (under cover and heated) belongs to both the dairy and meat sections, and the distinction is the shape of table. The round tables are for dairy, and the square tables for meat. If you sit at a round table, a waiter will come and give you a dairy menu; if you sit at a square table, you will get a meat menu. To prevent mix-ups, the staff are separate; dairy waiters aren't allowed into the meat kitchen, and vice versa.

            1. You should purchase the Israguide at your nearest Jewish book store. When we visited this last summer (first time in years), the Israguide was extremely helpful.

              1. Pashah in TA. Also beware there are plenty of false teudahs out there. You'll be able to tell when they give you dairy ice cream after your meat hamburger.

                1. Outside of J'lem - in Tel Aviv there is Cafe Bruno - last ate there 3 years ago and it was very good. For really off the beaten path, try Tzippora's in Bat Yam. It is near my grandmothers home and we go there twice every single time we go to Israel. It is what Mabat (in Brooklyn and Teaneck) wishes it could be. Many small salads, shisk kabobs - all very fresh and very tasty.

                  1. Shalom Uncle Moishy,

                    Welcome to Israel! When will you be in Jerusalem? I live near the German Colony so I am there quite a bit. The main street in the neighborhood, Emek Refaim, is full of restaurants. With the exception of McD, Meat Burger, Ribaleh, and Smadar (actually on Lloyd George) all restaurants on this street are either kosher or kosher mehadrin. The kashrut certificate at the front of the restaurant will indicate this level of kashrut, and if it is halavi or basari.

                    There is a takeout place on Emek Refaim (Tzidkiyahu, branches all over Jerusalem) and one on Rachel Imenu. There is a market on Emek but it is VERY expensive. If you drive four minutes down the street to the Talpiot Industrial neighborhood there are more supermarkets. Rami Levi (three in a three-block radius) and SuperSol Deal are the cheapest IMO. Talpiot Industrial zone is also home to humusiyot (hummus restaurants) and steakiyot (grilled meat). At night the neighborhood smells like a barbeque. All steakiyot are kosher/kosher mehadrin. Tzidkiyahu (no realation that I know of to the take-out place) and Tzion HaGadol are my favorites, and Chummus Talpiot is my favorite humusiya (it closes at 6:00 PM).

                    Machaneh Yehuda is the large open-air market in Jerusalem. You can get everything there. It is a pain to drive there, but you can take the 18 or 21 bus from the German Colony. It is a zoo before shabbat.

                    For Vegan there is Village Green on Jaffa St. Again, hard to get to because Jaffa St is closed to most traffic due to the light rail construction. The prices are expensive but boy is the food good. It is kosher mehadrin.

                    Aldo on Emek has excellent ice cream.

                    Let me know if you have any more questions.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: JudgeMaven

                      I went to the Aldo in mercaz ha'eir on my mosr recent trip; I was SO unimpressed. I had two small scoops, one of cheesecake flavor and the other was something like butter cookie flavor. As far as the cheesecake flavor goes, I think Edy's low-fat version was worlds better; I couldn't taste anything remotely like a cheesecake flavor. Ditto for the other. Did I just "unluck" out?

                      1. re: queenscook

                        I actually bounce back and forth on whether or not I like Aldo. I find the portions to be small and the price high (for an Israeli salary). The flavors involving fruit have much more of a taste, and the sorbets are very good. Aldo also has the stuff from Max Brenner-when you put all the toppings in the ice cream you can't taste the cream.

                        Not to defend the cheesecake, but cheesecake here in general tastes different from the cheesecake in the states. It isn't as rich or thick, so perhaps it didn't taste like the cheesecake you are used to, but to a native it might taste fine?

                        There is an ice cream/cake shop in the German Colony next to the Coffee Mill. It gets 1/2 the business of Aldo (as do all the ice cream shops...) but the ice cream is just as good if not better. I buy blueberry milkshakes.

                    2. I remeber going to Ticho House (sp?). I don't remember where exactly it was, but we stayed in the Citadel, and it wasn't too far from there. Excellent dairy food.. we went with about 30 ppl and had a set menu with appetizers brought to the table and a choice of entree. We sat in the garden area in the back.

                      1. Try Sheyan. Located in the old Rechavia windmill next door to the Prima Kings hotel, for delicious food (Asian style) in a beautiful setting. 2 minutes from Rechov Yaffo, Emek Refa'im.


                        Jerusalem, Israel

                        1. Many thanks for the replies. We have been in Jerusalem since Thursday night and the recs have been fantastically helpful.

                          Stocked up kitchen at Supersol Deal (total zoo Friday 12noon, but hey) and got shabbat takeout at Tzidkiyahu (very good overall, sliced beef very impressive, tabouleh too salty).

                          Had 2 major dinners to-date: one at Masaryk, the other at Yo-Ja. Very happy with both. Masaryk portions were huge; never saw as many ravioli in a ravioli entree as my wife got in hers. Downsides: the ravioli was a bit salty, and server was a bit weird. Yo-Ja's sushi a little expensive (but very fresh), and the beef in an entree was substandard compared to what I'm used to in NYC, but still very positive overall, including excellent service.

                          As far as I can tell, the new smaller Eucalyptus exists, at 7 Hyrkanos St (just north of Safra Sq). Have not gone there yet, but I agree that the write-ups are very tempting.

                          Can't weigh in on the Aldo question yet. Looked for the ice cream next to the Coffee Mill on Emek Refa'im but have not found it. The store literally next door is closed (don't remember the name exactly, but it included "chocolate"); could that be it? Or could it be Milk, which sells ice cream and decent coffee, but is across the street.

                          Bought decent bagels this morning at a place next door to Tzidkiyahu's on west side of Emek, just south of Rahel Imeinu. Also some not-exorbitant lox (a little salty, but I like it that way).

                          More questions:

                          At our 2 sit-down dinners to date, service was not included in the tab. This is a distinct change from the way I remember it in Israel. Something new? Or did we just catch the exceptions? And if service is no longer included, what's a normal tip -- 15%?

                          Also, am I wasting my time eating beef around here? Is it still all from Argentina, and still not all that good?

                          Finally, is it a coincidence that we've had a few oversalted dishes in only a few days? Are they really into salt here?

                          Once again, I greatly appreciate all the helpful advice to-date and hope to report back before we head home.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: uncle moishy

                            Shalom Uncle Moishe,

                            Welcome to Jerusalem! Glad to know I have a nice new "neighbor". Let me know if you need a guide.

                            Service is not included in Israel (generally) and cannot be added on to a credit card, so it is given in cash. I leave between 10-15%.

                            I rarely eat beef in Israel. I eat mostly chicken or turkey in the meat category. I haven't found really good beef in Jerusalem. Grilled beef at a Steakiyah is good, and i like the hamburger at Joy on Emek.

                            Chocolata is closed? Wah. I know they don't open after Shabbat is over. It is a shame-I liked their ice cream (forgot where else carries the brand) and desserts (Tal Bagels carries the same desserts).

                            Tal Bagels is the bagel shop you patronized.

                            I have been to Masaryk once, and that was to evacuate it :(. I was also at Yoja once and had the Pad Thai. I sampled some of my friend's sushi platter, and it was good but VERY overpriced!! YoJa has since revamped the sushi menu. For sushi I go to Japanika on Shlomtzion Hamalka in the city center (excellent prices but uneven service) or Sushi Bar Rechavia on Rechov Azza in Rechavia.

                            I hear Caffit is yummy.

                            HaShamen is a Jerusalem shwarma-only chain. I am always craving their shwarma. The closest branches to you are Rechov Hatenufa in Talpiot Industrial, or on Ben Zakai one block west of Emek (Emek turns into Ben Zakai by the Neeman bakery-you should go there, too).

                            Burekas Imma on Rechov Rivka has the best burekas. I stop there every friday to stock up for Shabbat.


                            1. re: JudgeMaven

                              When you mentioned that Caffit is yummy, it made me scratch my head, so I went and double-checked my credit-card receipt. We didn't eat at Masaryk; we ate at Caffit! (must've tried Masaryk first, but it was closing; they're on two successive corners). Now what about that evacuation?

                              1. re: uncle moishy

                                There was a suspicious object found on Emek, so a large section of the road was closed and all businesses within that area evacuated. I am in the Civil Guard so I helped with the evacuation. It ended up being nothing major and everything returned to normal within a few minutes.

                                I hear Masaryk is yummy, too. :)

                          2. My wife & I will be going to Israel this summer & its been for almost two decades for us since the last visit. Are Off the Square & Atara Cafe restaraunts of the past? Does anyione know if there are any issues with pin # for using (US issued) credit cards at the restaraunts? Thanks.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: bay1

                              To my recollection, both those places are closed. Off the Square moved from mercaz ha'eyr a long time ago, I think to somewhere close to The Plaza hotel/Great Synagogue area, but I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it on any of my most recent trips (five or six trips in the past five years). Atara also moved, and I think then closed, longer ago than Off the Square.

                              I don't understand what you mean about using a pin# for credit cards; I use my US credit card all the time there, but never need any pin#. Be aware, though, that most card companies will charge an international use fee for each time you use the card. However, I was told that Capital One has some plans that don't charge that fee, so I got one of theirs. I have absolutely no connection with this company, and am not suggesting that anyone needs any more credit cards. However, if you travel internationally frequently and want to avoid the use fee, it's one way to go.

                              1. re: queenscook

                                I go to Israel at least once a year, and for many years neither Off the Square or Atara's register's as a place to go at all. Therefore, they are either closed or not worth it.
                                I have always used my Amex card for restaurants and whatever visa card I happen to have if they dont take amex which is rare. Also, I use my US ATM card for taking cash out. In all cases, I have never noticed the charges to be excessive.

                              2. re: bay1

                                I know Cafe Atara has def. closed, not sure about Off the Square but I have never heard the name mentioned recently.