Sunday, June 26, 2011

Temple Beth Abraham in Israel

For the last several weeks we have been counting the days until the congregation arrived.  Now that they are here and we have spent the better part of a week together, the excitement was truly justified.
In the King Solomon Hotel lobby, so happy to see our friends.
As I said to the group on Shabbat, I have loved nearly every minute of my time in Jerusalem, especially my experiences in prayer, but I have also missed praying with my own community at Temple Beth Abraham.  To pray with my own community is Jerusalem is sort of the ultimate rabbinical fantasy.  It’s also just nice to be with so many good friends.  For my kids, especially Micah, it has been a Godsend.  So much less complaining when they have other kids to hang out with.

The "black hat" frum Rabbi Bloom with  Rebbetzin Bloom in background
This is how we looked upon the congregation’s arrival.  As a gag we decided to look like “haredim,” which means tremblers, known to most people as the ultra Orthodox.  I wore a dark suit and a black hat and had not shaved for two and a half months.  Karen wore a long skirt, long sleeves, and a scarf over her head.  Micah tried to wear payot (side curls), but the rest of his hair was too long for them to stand out.  Overall, though, we truly looked the part.  We pulled it off so well that the majority of our members did not even recognize us, walking right past us on their way into the hotel!  One of our members remarked that he assumed it really made him think about perceptions.  He thought I was just “some religious guy” and therefore walked right by me.  What are all the other black hatters like underneath the beard and the uniform-like outfits?

These pictures don't quite do it justice, but it was awesome in every sense of the word! 

The other unique thing about our arrival was the unbelievable suite the King Solomon Hotel gave us.  With nearly 70 people in our group, one of the largest congregational tour groups this summer, people want to make sure we are happy,  So we got an 11th floor suite with one of the best views of Jerusalem in the entire city, a 200 plus degree view on our gigantic balcony.  Our tour guides say it might actually be the very best view in the city.  I was doubly lucky to get the suite since there was a Rabbi Blum staying in the hotel as well, and they almost gave it to him instead.  There was also a group from Valley Beth Shalom there, and two 3rd cousins of mine, Andrea and Kerry, were a part of that group.  It is very “small world” Israel  run into people unexpectedly, but I never expected to see my Los Angeles cousins!

The first day was spent in the City of David, the highlight being the 40 minute wet walk through the tunnels of King Hezekiah.  Hezekiah created a system of water tunnels (actually expanded an existing system) which sustained Jerusalem through the siege of the Assyrian King Sennacherib around 720 BCE.  The water reaches as high as your waist, and it’s dark and a bit scary in there, certainly not for the claustrophobic.  Still, it was a great experience for kids and adults alike.  We passed the time by singing songs as we walked, and we all felt great at the light at the end of the tunnel.  
On the way into Hezekiah's tunnels.
We then went to lunch in Emek Refaim, our hood, and it was fun to watch people looking through our restaurant recommendations and loving the results.  I got the laundry and shaved, coming back with the “old” new Rabbi Bloom.  I barely recognized myself.  Afterward, we participated in a hands-on archaeological dig through remains that were dumped illegally by the Muslim Waqf.  It was fun to discover ancient pottery and mosaics for ourselves.
Sifting through the archaeological debris for hidden gems.

The next day, Thursday, was also spent in the old city of Jerusalem.  The day included a nifty scavenger hunt to help us better understand some of the sites in the Jewish quarter.  Keshet, our tour operator, really does an amazing job of doing things on multiple levels, for the adults who have been here before to the many children of all ages.  There are three counselor with us in addition to our tour guides, Yishai and Meirav.  In the afternoon we went inside the tunnels behind the Western Wall.  What they have done with that site is really amazing, and equally amazing that there is any controversy about trying to discover the past of this ancient treasure.  You can see pieces of not only the 2nd Temple, but the 1st Temple and even before.  There is also a little movie that explains how the ancient Israelites were able to move 570 ton stones into place during the building. 

Inside the walls
I also took a side trip during the break up to the Temple Mount, which today is inhabited by the Muslim Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.  I was wearing shorts, so we had to pay 30 shekels for these scarves to put around our legs.  The Dome of the Rock is an architectural beauty, but non Muslims are only allowed inside during certain hours.  Of course, this was also the site of the ancient Jewish Temple Mount.  To some extent you can get the sense of what it must have been like with thousands of pilgrims observing the holiday sacrifices on Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot.  Because Muhammed dreamt of Jerusalem in his famous “night vision” described in the Koran, it became a holy site to Muslims.  They conquered it in the 800’s and set up the gigantic mosque to replace Judaism’s holiest site.   While we do not have access to it any more (nor would I want to see the ancient Temple Cult with its animal sacrifices set up), there is a certain sadness for me and many other Jewish people when walking upon the hill.

Friday brought a trip to Yad Vashem for the adults and older children, a trip to the Biblical Zoo for the kids.  The new Yad Vashem is a stirring place, with the architecture itself contributing to the story.  As you go through the story of the Holocaust the museum narrows, and you feel more and more confined.  The combination of technology, artifacts, multimedia, and emotion is overwhelming.  This is the second time I have done it, and it felt very special to go through it with Micah.  Somewhere along the way, through his own reading, he has picked up quite a bit of knowledge, and I was proud.  We ended the trip there in the valley of the communities (stones with the most of the former Jewish communities of Europe) with a ceremony honoring TBA’s survivors Leonard Fixler, Helen Fixler, David Galant, Jack Jeger, Adele Mendelsohn-Keinon, Misia Nudler, Henry Ramek, and Pola Silver.  A sad, moving, important day all at once. 
Haunting Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem
For Shabbat we had early services in a park overlooking the Yemin Moshe neighborhood.  It was wonderful being with TBA for services and having our kids lead much of it, as is our custom.  I taught some of the Carlebach melodies that I have become so attached to here, and many of the members got up to dance.  We have a long way to go, though, to even approach the level of the Jerusalem synagogues, but I’m really proud of our members for giving it a go.  More to follow when I get back to the U.S. in late August.  We returned to the hotel for a delicious Shabbat dinner.  The King Solomon has been terrific—the food, the service, the lobby, everything.  I can’t really understand why it gets negative on-line reviews.  I think it’s terrific in every way (except that they lost my canteen back in 1994, but I need to get over that).  Anyway, after dinner I took about 20 people to an additional service at one of the spirited Carlebach services at a place called Mayanot, about a 20 minute walk from the hotel.  It was not as good as some of the other places I have been, but it was great to have some of our members witness the joy.  Unfortunately, the joy was mostly just on the men’s side of the mechitza. 

On Saturday morning we went shul hopping.  We began at Shira Chadasha, which has great singing and is as liberal as an Orthodox synagogue can be with women leading parts of the service.  We had been there our first week and enjoyed it then, but they do have a bit of a self-righteous attitude as if they are the greatest synagogue in the world and no one else is as educated, progressive, or as spirited as they.  One of the women scolded Karen on the way out.  “We’re not a museum,” she said. She did not appreciate the idea that so many people would get up and leave at once.  Karen responded that our group only had one Shabbat in Jerusalem, and we wanted to show them several different places.  “We chose you,” Karen said, but this response did not satisfy this woman.  I can certainly understand why it bothers some people in a synagogue that guests would be in and out, but you don’t have to react with anger.  I would love to have such a problem at our synagogue that so many visitors would want to see our synagogue every Shabbat.  By contrast, when we were at the Kol Rina synagogue, and a BBYO group had to leave all at once, the Gabbai thanked them for coming and spending even just a little bit of Shabbat with them.  That’s another way to look at it.

From there we went to the Great Synagogue, which is a massive structure, much like the large synagogues in America.  It is Orthodox, but in style it resembles an old time Reform synagogue.  There is a paid professional choir of all men who sings along with the operatic Cantor throughout the service.  The music was at a very high level, but most of our members did not enjoy the lack of participation.
Finally, we ended up at Moreshet Avraham, the Conservative synagogue at the Fuchsberg Conservative Center, where we ate a nice Shabbat lunch.  After that, we had several hours of free time, before Seudah Shlishit and Havdalah with wine tasting, which took place on our balcony.  Most of the nearly 70 people in our group were on our spectacular balcony watching Jerusalem change colors from day to twilight to night.  It truly was a special and spectacular Shabbat. 

Sunday, we left early for Masada, which we ascended and descended by Cable Car.  The story of the mass suicide by the Jewish zealots still amazes me, and the grandeur of Herod’s building is also awe inspiring, despite having been there many times.

That was followed by the Dead Sea Float. It’s quite a sensation, since the extreme salt content causes you to float automatically. Everyone has to do it, but it’s always painful.  It hurts every orifice, and Jonah had cuts on his feet, so it was especially painful.  He also forgot to bring his water shoes out of the bus, so I had to carry him, I fell down with him at one point, and it was sort of a mini disaster.  Still, it's part of the experience.

Then we hiked in the Ein Gedi desert oasis, and our group had a great time swimming by the waterfalls there.

Finally, off to Kibbutz Gonen where we are spending the next several nights.  More to follow soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Jerusalem Restaurants

An entire post devoted exclusively to restaurants.  You might think all we have done here is eat.  You're not far off.  There are four reasons for that.

1. My family's life and journals have always revolved around food to some extent.
2. We walk a lot here, so despite our gluttony we are either maintaining or losing weight.
3. We keep Kosher at home, and we don't have all these options.  You have to take advantage of it while you can.
4. The food here was terrible 20 years ago and I was on a student budget besides, and it is amazing now.

Eucalyptus****   (Yemin Moshe)
האקליפטוס- אנגליתMaybe the best restaurant in Jerusalem.  It's a very special dining experience.  You choose 7, 11, or 15 courses, all based on foods from the Bible.  Jacob's Red Lentil Stew, Hyssop, Jerusalem Sage, and more.  And they explain everything to you as they serve it.  Educational culinary fantasy come true.  A truly special meal, almost like the Israeli version of French Laundry.  

Rimon Bistro****
rimonLocated just off of Ben Yehuda Street, this is two restaurants in one, a dairy café (which has been there for decades) and a meat bistro.  We were shocked at how good the Bistro was.  I was expecting great location/high prices/mediocre food.  But the menu sounded so good, we just had to go in, and we were rewarded. Karen had a Shepherd’s Pie, I had a steak salad (bite size pieces of Entrecote served on top of a green salad), and my boys had a burger and chicken fingers.  All are dishes were excellent, and they may have been the best chicken fingers and burger we have ever had anywhere.  The burger was ground fresh in the restaurant from high quality steak and flavored with just a touch of Middle Eastern spices.  I was so hoping my boys would get full quickly, and I could devour their meals as well.  Unfortunately, they left me only a little. 

1868****  (King David Street)
This used to be known as the best restaurant in Jerusalem.  It has very high prices, but we had a coupon.  It gets a lot of negative comments on Trip Advisor, but we thought it was terrific.  I had a perfectly spiced beef tenderloin and Karen had sea bass (though not the Chilean Sea Bass we are used to).  They kept bringing out amouse bouches and a granita palette cleanser, and the dessert trio (which included a pot de creme, a mini chocolate souffle, and cookies) was out of this world.  

Tomer’s Bread**** (Hapalmach St or in AACI Building in Talpiot)
Lechem Shel Tomer Bakery JerusalemThis dairy cafe is always hopping.  As the name implies, they have a cornucopia of breads, which can be eaten plain off the rack or used for sandwiche  They also have soups, salads, cheese, olives, and an option to just take a wooden board and put whatever breads, cheeses, and other goodies you want on it.   All these are very high quality, but what makes this place truly special are the pastries, specifically the Coffee Eclairs and the Opera Cakes.  If I see either of these items anywhere in the world, I try them, and these are some of  the best I have ever tasted.  The Opera Cake falls apart a little too quickly, but the flavor explodes in your mouth.  I have had the éclair on multiple occasions (I know, I know); twice it was deeply coffee flavored and the other time a little too bland/creamy.  But when they’re on the only coffee based pastries I have ever had that compare to these come from Payard in New York, and I think these might be even better.

Tzofiya***+ (Iraqi Part of Mahane Yehuda Shuk)
Loved the home cooking feel of this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the Iraqi part of the Mahane Yehuda shuk.  Pure, Middle Eastern, authentic food with pots boiling on the stove right in front of your face.  We had delicious meatballs with artichokes and an amazing saffron-like yellow rice.  Not a famous place, but a great find.

Papagaio*** (Talpiot)
This is the Kosher version of the Brazilian all-you-can eat steakhouse.  They just keep bringing meat after meat to your table, including:  chorizo sausages (made from beef), Kabob (which is really ground lamb), chicken wings, Spring Chicken, regular chicken, beef braised in beer, liver (flavorful but too rich for my tastebuds),  and, finally, entrecote.  They also bring a variety of salads (beet, roasted sweet potato, a really tangy cole slaw, and one that I couldn’t identify), and a dish of french fries on the side.  Until you flip your table sign from green to red they just keep bringing things to you.  The only thing that prevented me from giving it five stars is that some of the meats are on the fatty side, but all are definitely flavorful.  

Black Bar and Burger***  (Near Mamilla Mall)
Their claim is that they are not only the best burger in Israel, but the best burger in the world.  I wouldn't go that far, but we did like it.  They have a burger sampler which includes a regular burger, a chicken burger (really grilled chicken), and a Popeye burger, which contains nuts and spinach inside.  The Entrecote steak was also really good, and you can have a chocolate syringe for dessert!

One of the best Kosher steaks ever, a filet mignon (or at least some part of the cow made to resemble a filet) perfectly cooked and with almost no fat.  Unfortunately, that was my brother's meal, and I only got a quarter of it.  My lamb chops were way too fatty--very hard to find the meat.  Karen's moullard (a cross between a Peking and a Moscovan duck) was delicious.  The wine list was unbelievable.  For the true foodie they have things like Kosher foie gras, thought that's not a dish I enjoy.  The service was first class.  Only the lamb chops prevented the 4th star.


Gourmet food meets Moroccan Kitsch.  We went during lunch, so we were the only ones there.  I had these Moroccan meat balls with artichoke,which were good, and Karen had meat and vegetable couscous.  The meat on the couscous was super fatty.    The dessert was a cinnamon tortilla like cream thing, sort of a Moroccan Churro which Karen loved.

Sima** (near Mahane Yehuda Market)
Famous Jerusalem grill restaurant, where you can get the mixed grill of various parts of a chicken or cow you wouldn't ordinarily want to eat, I found the food here to be distinctly mediocre.  I had a combined chicken shishlik and lamb kabob dish, while Karen had the Kubeh soup (sort of a Middle Eastern kreplach). The mixed salads, as at most of these types of places, were very good, though.  They included:  lentils, tabouleh, beets, eggplant, carrots, and two kinds of cabbage.

Beautiful, upscale restaurant on Emek Refaim.  It has a great continental menu with a middle Eastern flair and something for everyone.  I had a delicious Entrecote in an amazing sauce, and Karen had Duck with caramelized apples.  The only thing that prevents it from getting the 4th star is that my appetizer, Moroccan style “cigars” stuffed with lamb and almond tasted too much like an egg roll.  The filling was delicious, but the fried dough overwhelmed it.  Also, I have had better desserts elsewhere.  You just pay more for them here.  Overall, though, a really nice place to eat.

Italian food in Israel?  Why not?  Actually, there are many Italian restaurants, most of which are dairy.  This one has all kinds of fish and pasta.  It is “Israelified,” in that some of the ingredients are Middle Eastern.  Karen and I both had pasta.  Mine was in a creamy beetroot sauce and Karen’s was in a mushroom/artichoke type sauce.  There were many other things I wanted to try on their vast menu.

This is a Mediterranean Restaurant on Emek Refaim with a lunchtime special for $48 shekels (roughly $15 U.S. Dollars which includes an entrée and a side dish.  The meal starts with mediocre bread with two outstanding dipping sauces, a creamy garlic and a tomato-based tapenade.  Karen had chicken with a delicious honey-date sauce, and I had a dish that was basically spiced lamb burgers.  Karen’s was great, mine above average but nothing special.  The place had good service and a nice atmosphere.  I liked it, but not enough to warrant a second visit.

Sushi Rehavia**+
Micah and Karen ate at this mixed Asian restaurant without me.  Reports were excellent on Karen’s oshinko and delicate whitefish sushi; Micah enjoyed his avocado and cucumber immensely as well.  They have other Asian foods, but you don’t go to a place called Sushi and not have sushi.

Latin themed meat restaurant.  Chicken, steak, prepared in forms like paella, fajitas, and with all kinds of spices.  My Paella was huge and pretty good.  My little salad was actually huge, easily a full entree size, and the chicken on top was spiced perfectly.  Karen's soup and veggie fajita were also good, but spicy.

I’m not a huge Asian fan, but points for the variety.  Egg drop and Won Ton soup, sushi, Pad Thai, and more.  I had a Pad Thai chicken, which was a huge portion.  Karen had two different kinds of vegetarian sushi, including mushroom.    She liked it better than I did.

Buffalo Steak House*
This was a huge disappointment to me.  It’s an American style steakhouse, and they have a “business lunch special,” which includes an appetizer, steak (or another entrée), and a side dish.  The side salad I ordered was just fine, as was the tomato soup, but the sirloin steak was terrible.  It had some decent peppery spices on it, but its texture was chewy to the point where it was almost inedible.  They had other interesting sides like sweet potato mash, but you judge a steakhouse on its steak, and this one was really not good.

Caffit, Emek Refaim  ****
One of my favorite restaurants so far.  It is another dairy restaurant with huge variety, but almost every dish is creative.  Between my wife and I we had a hearty vegetable soup, sweet potato pancakes, and a mushroom quiche.  All were bursting with flavor.  I also had a really good ice coffee, which was more like a milkshake (as most Israeli “ice coffee” is).  There were so many other things on the menu I wanted to try, a sure sign of success.

Marvad Haksmamim--Magic Carpet***+
This Yemenite restaurant is very Middle Eastern and tons and tons of food.  This is a great value, especially at lunch.  They give you soup (I had vegetable, Karen had lentil), Yemenite flat bread, an entrée, and a choice of two salads.  I had a super tender, super flavorful goulash, and Karen had a grilled chicken breast.  Salads included beets, rice with lentils, falafel, and hummus.  It was one of my very favorite places, but Karen’s chicken was overcooked, so it didn’t get the 4th star.

Burgers Bar ***+
This is the kind of place I dream about and crave.  It has thick, juicy burgers, and you can add things like roasted red peppers, mushrooms, an egg, and a variety of sauces, some American like, some spicy Middle Eastern.  You can also get chicken schnitzel, Entrecote Steak, chicken wings, and salads.  Burgers can be made out of beef or lamb.  This is a chain with several outlets throughout Jerusalem, and most of them have a long line at peak times.  Didn’t get the the 4th star because it is a zoo in there.

This is a very Middle Eastern place.  How many ways can you serve chickpeas?  The main fare is a large plate of humus (creamy, a bit oily, and delicious) topped with various grilled meats or vegetables.  I got minced lamb with spices atop mine.  Karen got chickpeas with falafel balls on top of hers.  In her case, that’s whole chickpeas, fried chickpeas, and ground chickpeas in one dish!  The falafel balls were tinged with cinnamon.  You can also get grilled chicken, mushrooms, chicken livers, entrecote, and many other things atop your hummus plate as well.  Everything is spiced really nicely, but not necessarily “charif” or hot.   This is a great choice if you really want to immerse yourself in the Middle Eastern food experience.

Waffle Bar***
This is exactly what it sounds like, a restaurant where waffles are king, especially of the dessert variety.  They have salads, pizza, and savory waffles and crepes as well, but it’s really all about smothering thick waffles and thin crepes in a variety of very sweet toppings.  Those toppings include . chocolate, caramel, nutella, whipped cream, ice cream, and fruit.  Jonah’s was definitely the best, something called the Crepe Café Waffle, which added white chocolate chips to the mix.  We all felt a little bloated walking out of there, but it was delicious.  There are many other locations of Waffle Bar throughout the city.

Café Café**
Dairy Restaurant has a huge variety on its menu.  I had Shakshuka, which is a Middle Eastern Dish (most say Tunisian in origin) made up of tomatoes, roasted peppers, spice, eggs, cheese, and other goodies.  They have several varieties, and they all sound delicious.  My “regular” one certainly was.  Karen had the Haloumi Salad, which is a green salad with fried cubes of cheese in it, and enjoyed it very much. They also have salads, nachos, fish and chips, pizzas, and terrific pastries of all sorts.  Between us and the family who joined us for brunch that day, we tried all of these things, and they pulled all of them off well, with the possible exception of the nachos, which were more pita-like than tortilla like.

Moshava 54**+
Middle Eastern/Continental/Mediterranean mix with a small but varied menu.  I had a salad with steak on top of it.  Karen had what amounted to a barbecue chicken wrap.  Micah had a very ordinary chicken schnitzel.  It was good, but not amazing.  The plus comes from the mixed mushroom appetizer, a fantastic mix of sweet and savory

Ben Ami**
Another dairy restaurant with great variety on its menu, especially salads, quiches, raviolis, pizza, and desserts.  We were very excited to dig into sweet potato ravioli, but it tasted much more like cheese than sweet potato, and at high prices, we expected more intense flavors.  The mousse type dessert was good, but not amazing.  We went there during Passover, so perhaps it wasn’t a fair test, and the things they were able to pull off with pesadich food is an accomplishment in itself.  Still, it wasn’t good enough to want to go back to, so it only gets two stars.

FAST FOOD (Moshiko and Meirosh are actually on Ben Yehuda, nowhere near).
Felafel Doron***
This is a pretty typical Felafel/Schwarma place.  You can get it in a pita or a lafa.  Felafel in a pita is about 15 shekels ($5.00) and a schwarma costs about 23 shekels (just over $7.00).  It has all the traditional fixings—Israeli salad, pickles, hummus, tehina, cabbage, French fries, and plenty of other things I don’t put in my sandwich.  These places are a dime a dozen in Israel, and everyone has their personal favorites, but almost all of them are tasty to me.

Felafel Adir***
Very similar to Doron.  The Schwarma is slightly better here and the falafel not quite as good.  What’s great about it is it looks incredibly out of place nestled in between all the trendy places surrounding it in the neighborhood.  They also give free samples out if you’re nice.

Pizza Italia***
Pizza Italia’s slices are square, and they are fancier than your average New York style pizza place.  They have white pizza, pesto pizza, and very fresh looking vegetables as toppings.  Some are very hot/spicy, and the smell wafting from the place as you pass by is always tempting.

Pizza Sababa***
One of three pizza places on Emek Refaim, this one has the cheapest slices.  They are more or less New York style with all the requisite toppings.  It has a good balance of tomato, spice, and mozzarella, and it definitely satisfies the typical pizza craving.

New Deli***
When I was here for rabbinical school over 20 years ago, it was impossible to find good meat, let alone deli food.  This small chain has changed that.  The place has a Subway look to it, but the quality of the meats and vegetables is much, much better.  You can get the typical, Pastrami or Corned Beef, but also grilled chicken, turkey, or lamb, where they actually put it on the grill rather than in a microwave.  You pick your own fixings, and the grilled chicken I had there with pickles, olives, and roasted red peppers was delicious.

This is a exactly what it sounds like—a fast food type restaurant that specializes in Chicken Shnitzel.  You can have it in several styles, labeled Polish, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and regular, depending on what herbs you want it cooked with.  They also have grilled chicken and some other things, but it’s all about the schnitzel.  Despite its specialization in schnitzel, I have definitely had better chicken schnitzel elsewhere, and it is multiple napkin greasy.  We also got an order of chicken wings with a sauce that ranks as a four star, a combination of pomegranate, maple syrup, and citrus.   I dipped bread from my sandwich in it, it was so good, but the rest of the place was not quite up to snuff.  You can get a better schnitzel at most falafel/shwarma stands.

This may be the only non Kosher place on Emek Refaim, but the meat there is Kosher, so, for some of us, as long as we don’t mix it with a milkshake, it’s good enough.  It takes like the McDonalds I remember as a kid before I kept Kosher.  I guess the flavor injections rather than the meat is the key to the famed McDonald’s consistency.  The fries taste the same as anywhere, and the Happy Meal is available for children.  There are a few differences, however.  They heat the burgers over charcoal grill, rather than on a fry grill, and they serve an “only in Israel” McFalafel.  I confess that I have never tried the McFalafel.  I should, but with amazing falafel on every corner, it’s hard for me to justify.

Big Apple Pizza**
This place attempts to be the “New York” pizza place, and, as such, it is frequented by Americans.  It is decorated in a New York theme, though for some unexplainable reason, they also have signs for other American cities, not all of which have good pizza.  The pizza here is not bad, but I prefer the other places over Big Apple any day. 

Moshiko*** (Ben Yehuda Street)
Moshiko is one of the most famous falafel/schwarma places in all of Jerusalem.  It is located near the bottom of Ben Yehuda Street, and with that prime location, charges prime prices.  It is really, really good, though. Typical fixings, but the quality of the schwarma and falafel are somehow just a cut above most of the others.

Meirosh** (Ben Yehuda Street)
This place is relatively new and is very close to one of its main competitors, the better known Moshiko.  The difference is that, in addition to falafel, schwarma, and schnitzel, they also serve grilled Cornish Game Hen in a pita or lafa.  The texture is a bit fatty for my taste, but the flavoring is very special and worth a try.

The Coffee Mill***
This place is very American, but in a charming, independent sort of way.  They have barrels of different beans for purchase, but they also make good cappuccino, mochas, and ice coffee.  Ice coffee in Israel has always been more like a milkshake than a coffee.  They used to actually put ice cream into coffee and call it iced coffee.  Nowadays, it spins in a machine, and you can get it almost anywhere.  This place has a stronger coffee flavor in its ice coffee than some of the others.

The Old Man on the Corner**
This is not actually the name of the place.  I’m not sure it has a name, but this is how everyone refers to it.  At the beginning of Emek Refaim (if you're coming from King David Street), there is a little, mustached old man who speaks only Hebrew, so it is fun to order there.  He has ice coffee on the menu, but he will tell you not to order it, since there is no machine, and all he would do would be to pour instant coffee over ice.  His cappuccino is decent, and he has fresh squeezed grapefruit, orange, apple, and carrot juice as well.  But it’s his personality that makes this place a favorite.

This is the Starbucks of Israel.  There is a full menu of sandwiches and salads, as well as pastries, and a variety of espresso beverages.  It’s always teeming with people, just like Starbucks.

Café Hillel**
Another chain with a full menu, including salads, sandwiches, and pastas, it is quieter and a little than Aroma but with a slightly snobbier vibe.  The pastries are superior to those at Aroma; the coffee is quite similar.

Holy Bagel**
Bagels are a relatively new phenomenon in Israel, and they don’t quite measure up yet.  Still, this is the best bagel place we have found.  They are a little too soft and wheaty for bagels, but that makes them more edible as well.  They have sesame, raisin, poppy, and onion as well as plain.  Service is quick and helpful.

Tal Bagel**
This place is a full restaurant and not just a bagel shop, but I can only speak to the bagels.  They look like New York bagels, but they are not particularly good.  They are sort of hard on the outside and taste toasted even when they are not.  I would give it one star, but it is so crowded and popular that it must be better than I think in terms of the prepared food.

There are four restaurants right across the street from the King Solomon Hotel and very close to the Inbal and Dan Panorama as well.  Their quality is distinctly mediocre.

Olive Fish***
This is an upscale place focused on, you guessed it, fish.  We have not tried it because we have already been to the regular Olive restaurant owned by the same people on Emek Refaim.  But that place was tasty, so I’m sure this one is just as good.

Cup A Joe**+
A coffee place, as you would imagine, but with a full menu of sandwiches and salads.  Service was spotty and the coffee was mediocre.  But the mini chocolate soufflé (not really a soufflé,  but more like a lava cake) was really good.

Little Italy**
Their menu sounds great, but with the kids that night, we ordered plain Pizza Margherita and Spaghetti Pomodoro.  So I can’t comment on all the things we wanted to try (various mushroom pastas, fish, and risotto), but I can tell you that the basic pizza and pasta were not very good.  The pizza was chewy, and the pasta was oily.  Still, it is very convenient.

Paradiso Café and P2 Pizza*
Truthfully, I have never been here.  It gets one star, because it is one of the few flagrantly unkosher places in Jerusalem.  You can get pork there if you desire it.  It really is out of place in a religious neighborhood where it is located.    You have to try hard to find unkosher places in Jerusalem, but here is one.

B'tei Avon!