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