Mordecai Holtz, Director of New Media for ItravelJerusalem, the city’s official tourism office, introduces the 10 (plus one extra) must-try treats when visiting Jerusalem.
There are many reasons tourists visit Jerusalem. Some visit for the city’s strong spiritual connection to the three major global religions. Others come to Jerusalem to explore its illustrious history, while some flock to the city to learn about its eye towards innovation. Whatever the reason, in order to truly experience the city’s unique flavor, one should explore its diverse food and amazing multicultural cuisine.
Jerusalem is a city that has benefited from a melting pot of immigrants over the years, which means that the city’s food scene is rich with an eclectic, yet sophisticated palette. Especially in the world of food, Jerusalem is at the forefront of Israel’s innovation and contemporary flavor profile. The diversity of the city offers a range of sushi bars, burger joints, Italian and French cuisine, and classic Israeli restaurants. Here are 10 of Jerusalem’s must taste foods, in no particular order.
This gooey dessert is a classic in Jerusalem. Walk to almost any bakery in the city and you’re sure to find some of these delicious rolled pastries. While there are many bakeries, the most famous rugelach are found in the Shuk, Jerusalem’s fresh food market, at a small store called Marzipan. Somehow, they’ve figured out the perfect ratio of stickiness and flavor. It’s a must have in Jerusalem. Pro tip: visit them on a Friday when the store is bustling with people and the smell of rugelach is permeating the entire store.
Yes, this Middle Easterd favorite has already become an international favorite but Jerusalem seems to have the most falafel joints per square meter and rightfully so. Each one of the many Jerusalem falafel places offers the standard deep-fried chickpea dish and accompanying condiments. One of the most unique places is Arkadash, which is located in the center of town and offers a Mexican twist of guacamole as a spread to enhance any tourists falafel.
This Arab treat is made from layers (yes, layers) of shredded filo dough colored bright orange, packed with melted goat cheese, topped by a rosewater syrup. Yes, this heavenly tasting dessert is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. Even in Jerusalem, knafeh may be hard to find but tourists can make a stop at Jaffar’s, located inside the Old City.
While the Turks brought shawarma to Israel during the Ottoman rule of the Middle East, the sliced meat rotisserie dish has become an iconic Israeli dish. What makes shwarma one of Israel’s best-selling street foods is that it is always fresh, piping hot, and served like a gyro. The combination of flavors makes this an unforgettable fast food that is a must-taste in Jerusalem. While shwarma is a street food, it can get sloppy. So stop by Shalom Falafel, one of the city’s oldest establishments having been around since 1945, for some shwarma. This tiny storefront forces visitors to take their meal to go. While shwarma is meant for the carnivore, The Vegetarian Shwarma is a Jerusalem restaurant that has refined the classic food into a tofu treat.
It’s become an international dip. It’s classically Mediteranean but only in Jerusalem can you walk into a hummus-only place and be served hummus with a variety of toppings. Yup, from meat to chic peas, hummus in Jerusalem is taken to an entirely new level of flavor. Of all the hummus restaurants in Jerusalem, Hummus Ben Sira is probably the most famous and flavorful. For those night owls, this hummus place is open virtually through the night, filling the urban tourist craving, especially for those hipsters partying who get hungry late at night after partying at the nearby bars and clubs.
This puff pastry stuffed with cheese, spinach, or potatoes is the savory sister to the rugelach. Served in two sizes – either in mini, perfect for a quick snack, or large size, often accompanied by a hardboiled egg, pickles, or tehina on the side. Bourekas Ramle- on Aggripas Street offers both sizes, even offering an option to wash the whole snack down with some lemonade.
Another classic Jerusalem dessert, only served in the summers, is malabi. Sometimes knows as blancmange, the almond-and-rosewater pudding is a cool treat that is always welcome on a warm summer night. It can be found all over the city.
During the winter months, when malabi isn’t available, there’s always sachlav. This warm drink has a distinct flavor that is a combination of ground up sahlab orchid, mixed with hot milk, orange blossom water, cinnamon, and vanilla.While many Jerusalem cafes serve sachlav, the real drink is best enjoyed in the shuk, the Jerusalem market.
Hebrew for all mixed up is probably the best way to describe this hot boiled egg dish. Served in a skillet, this poached egg dish is always delicious. The best place in Jerusalem for shakshouka is Dr. Shakshouka. This family restaurant is famous for its traditional shakshouka recipe, by which all others are judged. The restaurant have mastered the art of the dish by combining the right amount of heat, spice, and sauce. Make sure to use the bread that’s served with the shakshouka to scoop up the sauce.
10. Jerusalem Mix Grill
This dish is for meat lovers only. For those tourists who don’t appreciate shwarma, stay away. But Jerusalem mix is delicious and is an iconic dish of the city. It’s a mix grill of the gizzards (livers, hearts) fried with onions and then served in a pita. It is delicious and defines the classic Jerusalem thinking of not wasting a single piece of meat. One of the best places to find Jerusalem mix is a restaurant called Chatzot (Hebrew for midgnight). Located in the shuk area, this restaurant has been serving Jerusalem mixed grill for decades.
11. Any of the 100 Israel Craft Beers
As part of the gentrification of the shuk area, a new style of stores has emerged in the famous for low cost foods, traditional Middle Eastern marketplace scene, and fresh fruits and vegetables. In the same Jerusalem shuk, a few nicer, trendier bars and restaurants have opened to the growing urban interest in local sourced foods with a cool place to hang out at night. Among these new eateries is the Beer Bazaar, serving 100 Israeli micro-brews in a traditional pub setting. The food is reasonably priced, the bartenders are extremely knowledgeable, and the night scene is unique when the place is packed with customers who overflow into the hustling marketplace.