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Jerusalem restaurant ideas - Israeli food preferred

I will be in Jerusalem in May. I will be with a group, but will have 1-2 nights when I can go out to dinner. I will be with enthusiastic "foodie" eaters, and would like to try very good food that is typical of Israel (so Israeli food is what I would like to try - but if you have a favorite French or Italian place please share! I am open to all ideas.) I am looking for the real deal, and do not need to spend a lot, but also don't mind paying for a superior meal, so I am flexible. I would love and appreciate some recommendations! Also in Nazereth for 2 days, so if there are any places there you recommend please also let me know! Thanks!

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  1. If we would have known exactly what Israeli food is :-) We would have to thank the arab population for the influence and inspiration..
    Anyway, there are interesting places in Jerusalem in regards to supposingly what is Israeli cuisine, but i cannot really recommend all of the ones i will mention cause im not frequently visiting them. this is more a list of options :
    The option i like the best in Jerusalem is a great italian restaurant called Topolino, must book in advance especially for dinner.
    Machne Yehuda - mught be the ultimate Israeli market euro mediterranean crazy chef resto expirience, if you are looking for something "market upscale" with some possible noisy added value and quite good cooking, this is the place. Very popular and hard sometimes even to reserve.
    Those two can be VERY nice evening options but not cheap at all in local standarts (and in general).
    I know remember we had some discussion regarding interesting option, maybe more "authentic" then the 2 i mentioned, check the thread :
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/930849

    For me the most fun in regards to Jerusalem is touring each time the machne yehuda market area, arriving around close time at late afternoon early evening, actually even without reserving at a resto you will find very interesting small places all around the place, for that worth preparing some list and maybe you can do some small things here and there, good ice cream etc.. In my case it always ends at a dinner in Topolino which is by the entrance to the market, other resto is of course in the same area.. Lovely area for every foodie..

    1. Where are you traveling from? If you are coming from a large metropolitan US or European city, don't go for food you can get at home (ie French or Italian). It probably won't be as good as what you can get at home.

      I haven't been to Israel in a few years and I usually don't dine upscale when I do, but my preferences are for foods I can't get elsewhere. For me, Kurdish tops the list. My favorites, both in the area of the shuk, are Azura and Ima's. I'm a sucker for kubbeh, especially kubbeh hamusta, but I'll do kubbeh multiple times per trip.

      Nazereth is reputed to be "the place" to go for hummus. I have no personal recommendations, but if your only familiarity with hummus is what comes out of a tub at the supermarket, forget what you know. Make sure to go to a real hummisiya and order liberally. It will be a revelation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rockycat

        Azura is great food and expirience, but open max till 17:00, just to pay attention and not count on it for dinner.

      2. I just found this link. Not all of it will be helpful to you, but some will and it is interesting nonetheless. I've eaten at some of the restaurants mentioned and can agree that they are good representations of the food mentioned.

        B'tayavon!

        http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/modern-m...

        1 Reply
        1. re: rockycat

          http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-p...

          This link might be easier to read if you don't want to get a Haaretz subscription.

          I have to add - for cheap late night eats - I LOVE Jachnoon Bar in Jerusalem. It's open basically all day - but I've always associated it as post bar food. Though jachnoon is the classic dish, my favorite item to order is fatoot - basically the special Yeminite bread that's chopped up and then scrambled with eggs and whatever filling items (standard drunk order - fatoot, with mushrooms, tomatoes, and mixed cheese.....). There is (used to be?) a more full Yeminite restaurant on Jaffa street in the city center, that is ok if you really want to try food from that region but not excellent. It's also very cheap.

        2. The best restaurant by far in Nazareth is Alreda - absolutely excellent, very close to the Church of the Nativity (21 Bishara St, Nazareth, 04-6084404). They have some truly amazing dishes. In general, I find going up north to be the worst mixed bag food wise - but this is easily my favorite place to eat in all of the north. (this place isn't cheap, btw)

          And just to be a contrarian - for café food in the shuk - I personally recommend Café Mizrachi over Azura. Totally different styles of food, but I've had some truly magical meals at Mizrachi, whereas Azura I think just does Ashkenazi and Sephardic comfort foods very well. So it depends what you're looking for.

          I do second Machne Yehuda for a nice pricier restaurant in Jerusalem - but it does depend on what experience you like in a restaurant. It's a bit cozy/noisy. The same group also owns Mona in the Bezalel college, similar food - just a different environment and the dishes aren't quite as creative (if you have a larger party or want a less noisy ambiance). If you don't care about noise and don't have time for a reservation or really off hour dining (Mona and Machne Yehuda really require reservations just about any day of the week), Yudeleh across the street from Machne Yehuda is an open kitchen, small plates version of Machne Yehuda and it's first come, first sit. Again, same group - similar food - but can be really quite noisy, especially later (if that bothers you). I find all three great options depending on the occasion and the types of diners you have.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cresyd

            What are the price ranges at alreda like?

            1. re: unamuno200

              They are on the expensive side if you choose to go for a full dinner and drinks - but if you go for a lighter meal/lunch then it doesn't have to be as pricey. Tripadvisor lists the price range as $18-60, and that's about accurate. You can end up spending a whole lot or being more frugal.

              1. re: unamuno200

                This is from 2011 - but gives some additional Nazareth ideas. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/25/tra...

            2. Thanks everyone, appreciate the ideas! Has anyone tried Mona?

              6 Replies
              1. re: SamuelAt

                Mona is owned by the same group that owns Machenye Yehuda - so I'd recommend only going to one. Pluses/minuses with Mona is that it's larger - so if you're going with a bigger group, I'd recommend it. It's also a quieter atmosphere - so if noise levels are an issue, it's a better choice. Food wise, it's not quite as modern/innovative. The food at both is very good, but Machenye Yehudah is going to push a few more boundaries.

                Just depends what suits your group best.

                1. re: cresyd

                  Great to know! Thanks for the perspective. Both sound good - though I do like innovation, so may slightly prefer Machenye Yehuda.

                  1. re: SamuelAt

                    No problem - I usually pick one depending on the size of the group. Personally, I think getting a table for more than 4 at Machenye Yehuda ends up being kind of unpleasant and would then chose Mona. Others go by noise levels, but the food truly is similar enough to not bother going to both in one visit.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      I'm not sure how many we will have - 3 for sure - but could be 6 or so as well if people join us. Will keep your advice in mind.

                      Also, a couple of other places have been mentioned to me as possibilities - do you (or anyone reading this) have any thoughts on Ima, or Arabesque?

                      Thanks again!

                      1. re: SamuelAt

                        Nope - no thoughts on either place. Full disclosure - I'd been living in Jerusalem for 5 years up until September of last year. So if they're new from then - then I am clueless. And if they're kosher, then there's also a high chance I haven't tried them. For the most part, if I wanted a more expensive dining experience I never went to kosher restaurants.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          Great, thanks again, appreciate it! We're not Kosher, so these establishments are not as I understand it (though I would not rule it out if they were.)

              2. Not sure if you are still looking but I would say Machneyuda is a must but make sure you book ASAP especially for a group and upstairs is quieter than downstairs but not as fun. I personally dont think Mona is as good for food quality, service or atmosphere and is only worth going if you dont want the noise or you cannot get into Machneyuda.

                Ima is a great place for really authentic Israeli food without any modern twists - they have a good selection of grilled meats and kubbeh soups etc. My favorite place to take visitors for a typical Israeli meal in Jerusalem is Steakiat Hatzot on Agripas (near the shuk)- the food and service is consistently good, you get an unlimited mezze of salads and the main dishes are all under 100 NIS and I never need a starter so it is pretty good value.

                2 Replies
                1. re: debs76

                  Thanks for the advice! I look forward to trying these places - Mona was already booked - and we'll hopefully also try one of the others here.

                  1. re: SamuelAt

                    We've enjoyed the food at Chakra. Mona was ok, but nothing to write home about.

                2. Just a thank you for all of the ideas. We only had one night out, and were able to go to Mona, which was fantastic and I highly recommend. We had a very gracious waitress, and the food was delicious. Aside from the food we ordered, a complimentary salad with heirloom tomatos was brought out and also a tasting of a polenta with asparagus, wild mushrooms, and cheese that was out of this world. We also sampled a delicious squid appetizer, and a drum fish entree which came with a garnish of mussels - delicious. One companion ordered a steak which was perfectly cooked meduium rare as ordered and nicely charred.

                  We also enjoyed the quirky/arty atosphere. Highly recommend if you are in Jerusalem.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SamuelAt

                    Mona is excellent for getting fun complementary dishes. I went there once on Purim and they gave complementary hamenstashen with popping candy.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      Yum! We felt very well treated by the staff. The salad was large enough for the whole group. Nice to hear you had a similar experience.