Amman, Jordan April 2009
Just returned from a trip to Amman with the following restaurant experiences to recommend. Most of these are commonly suggested places. In no particular order:
1. Wild Jordan in Jebel Amman (non-traditional): Wild Jordan is a center, really, not just a restaurant, that is run in collaboration with the US Government and local NGOs. The center is beautiful and modern with comfortable places for relaxing, a nice cafe type restaurant with a few slightly western takes on local foods, a gift store and education center, and free wireless. Beautiful views of the city, and nice atmosphere lit with candles at night. I wasn't too impressed with the food, although you must have a fresh lemonade with mint, which is delicious and tart.
2. Hashem in the downtown area (super traditional): Perhaps the most famous local joint, serving only vegetarian food (falafel. hummus, and the like) in a small fairly dirty atmosphere place crammed with locals. Almost no english spoken. Best falafel I've had. An experience worth having, and afterward you can wander around downtown and see the shops. Someone will surely tell you the famously exaggerated story of the king coming to "eat with the people" at Hashem.
3. Vinaigrette, in an upscale hotel (non traditional, mostly Italian and Japanese): Although this place is often recommended, I thought the food and ambiance was super disappointing. The only reason to come here is for the view, or if you are so sick of local food that you can tolerate a mediocre meal just to have something different.
4. Jabri, in several locations around town, just ask cab driver (local fast food): a truly local experience and super cheap. Cab drivers seem to love that westerners want to eat here.
5. Books@Cafe on Rainbow Street (western style internet cafe, lounge, and bookstore): a really nice place to kill some time after wandering around the very cute Rainbow Street. Nice view, good pizza and coffee, free wireless, many English speakers mixed with young locals, great decor. There are several other nice coffee shops with wireless along Rainbow Street as well, which are worth wandering into. Also, near Books@Cafe on Rainbow Street, try to locate a small, very new looking ice cream shop. For 1JD/scoop, try the croccan, arabic, and lazy cake flavors.
6. Lebanese restaurant at the entrance to the Meridian Hotel near Shmeshani (excellent Lebanese food): beautiful restaurant with live music in the evenings, super Lebanese food at reasonable prices (especially if you enjoy the small mezze-type dishes). Try the dandelion green dish. Trust me, it's fabulous.
7. Blue Fig (non traditional, western style cafe): lots of hype surrounding this place. Good people watching, nice menu. I had a tabouleh salad that was dressed with citrus and ginger in sort of a new twist on a local favorite. Good coffee, free wireless, art on walls, trendy with young people but nothing too spectacular.
Favorite foods in Jordan:
1. Order the smokey eggplant dip called Muktabal (similar to baba ganoush).
2. Have tea with generous amounts of mint and sugar with acidic dishes heavy on the lemon (nice combination).
3. Order a cold fresh lemonade with mint (make sure you mention the mint). Cold, tart, green, and fabulous, and available just about everywhere.