63 Al Wad Road
Tel: 972 2 627 1538
Perfect for families and large groups, this favorite spot for traditional Palestinian food specializes in hummus, falafel, salads, and grilled meats. Although located deep in the Muslim section of Jerusalem's Old City, Abu Shukri is so well known that any local can easily offer directions to the street (one of the quarter's main thoroughfares) that it's on.
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tel: 972 2 624 9138
Chef Ezra Kedem's Arcadia is easily the top table in Jerusalem. Kedem transformed an atmospheric old building into a slice of Provence in the Holy Citycomplete with authentic stone arches and floorsbut relies on local ingredients, often sourced less than 30 miles away, when preparing his dishes. Standouts on the IsraeliMediterranean menu include a seafood salad of octopus, shrimp, and blue crab, eggplant carpaccio, and lamb chop ragoût.
8 Shlomzion HaMalka Street
Tel: 972 2 622 2293
First opened in 2005 and set behind a wall of street-front windows in downtown Jerusalem, Canela got a major overhaul in late 2008 with the arrival of young chef Lior Haftzadi. He has given the contemporary Mediterranean bistro a lighter, fresher touch, focusing on seasonal ingredients and top Israeli wines. Now considered a leader in Jerusalem's culinary upswing, Canela is luring both young Jerusalem professionals and more adventurous religious types. Like most Jerusalem restaurants, Canela is kosher: Its meat-based menu eschews all dairy products. Instead, you'll find unexpected touches of Asian and Middle Eastern flavors on the menu. An appetizer of chestnut gnocchi, for instance, arrives colorfully spiked with chives and bathed in a sauce of coconut milk. Grilled chicken livers—an Eastern European classic—are surprisingly sweetened with dates, while raisins add texture and taste to a hearty beef stew. Book a window seat to watch the downtown Jerusalem bustle, an urban tableau ranging from skater kids to ultra-Orthodox rabbis.
Open Sundays through Thursdays noon to 4 pm and 6 pm to midnight, Fridays 11am to 3pm, and Saturdays after sundown to midnight.
4 Haychal HaTalmud
Tel: 972 3 510 7001
In the fall of 2006, longtime favorite Catit left its original rural location and brought its innovative cuisine to an Ottoman-era villa in Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek district. The new digs have original tile floors, delicate wall stenciling, a trio of demure glass-enclosed dining rooms, and a walnut bar. Chef Meir Adoni's menu betrays his Cordon Bleu schooling but doesn't stray too far from Levantine flavors: Slow-cooked lamb osso buco is served on a bed of Jerusalem artichoke cannelloni; mozzarella-filled veal meatballs in a chicken and sage sauce are nestled on a cloud of polenta; a traditional goat cheese–filled kadaifa (Arabian filigree pastry) is drenched in honey rosewater and paired with sage ice cream. Although it's pricey, Catit is filled with local foodies and deep-pocketed visitors who stick around afterward for drinks in the back garden.
Tel: 972 3 544 9211
Abandoned for decades on the city's northern fringes, Tel Aviv's Old Port underwent a million-dollar makeover a few years ago and has become a compelling culinary destination. At Comme Il Faut Caféan offshoot of the cutting-edge local women's fashion brandchef Hadassah Wolf is committed to using mostly seasonal, organic, local ingredients that boost Israel's agricultural industry, without sourcing from politically sensitive Israel-occupied territories. This means no productsincluding winesfrom the disputed West Bank or the Golan Heights (where Israeli's most fertile vineyards are located). Wolf's lunch menu comes in Small, Medium, and Large portions and includes catch-of-the-day ceviche (perhaps snapper or local drum fish), quinoa salad with pears and brazil nuts, and perfectly crisp roast chicken.
Paul VI Street
Tel: 972 4 657 2919
Diana lures diners from across the country to Nazareth for the best Arab-style menu in Northern Israelif not the whole country. Choose from a seemingly unending assortment of saladsfrom simple tomato and cucumber to an ultragreen tabboulithen dip into homemade hummus and tahini and finish with the house specialty, handmade kebabs flecked with onions, spices, and pine nuts. Reservations are essential.
8 Ma'Avar HaYavok Street
Tel: 972 52 703 5888
HaSalon energetically proves that the concept of "dinner as theater" is alive and well in Tel Aviv. Located in an obscure industrial area on the city's eastern fringe, "the salon" is an exercise in epicurean audacity—but only two nights per week, when chef-owner Eyal Shani and a team of a half-dozen sous-chefs create dazzling (and pricey) meals. The small, always-packed space stars a central open kitchen, and the see-and-be-seen crowd flits between tables. The menu, defined by Shani's weekly finds from throughout Israel, might include a single crystal shrimp wrapped ravioli-style, or entrecôte prepared table-side and infused with olive oil and rosemary to the applause of diners. Never shy, Shani clearly revels in the ovations.
Open Wednesdays and Thursdays 7pm until closing.
6 Koifman Street
Tel: 972 3 516 6516
With its prime waterfront location, celebrity chef at the ovens, and stylish organic-wood interiors, Herbert Samuel became an instant Tel Aviv institution within months of its opening in late 2007. Lorded over by Israeli culinary pioneer Jonathan Roshfeld, whose eponymous eatery launched Israel's first foodie movement two decades ago, the Mediterranean restaurant is defined by a series of wooden screens that shift to create cozy dining nooks surrounding a central wooden bar. Diners indulge in Roshfeld must-tries including whole-wheat pappardelle with chestnuts and shredded short ribs, anchovies spiked with roasted peppers, and Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle sauce. The extensive wine list focuses on Mediterranean bottles, including an impressive array of Israeli vintages. The buzzy vibe, the creation of stylish young owner Yair Bekier, brings in a youthful, food-focused crowd during both business lunches and late-night suppers.
Open Sundays through Wednesdays noon to 12:30 am, Thursdays through Saturdays 12:30 pm to 1:30 am.
Southern Tel Aviv Promenade
Tel: 972 3 517 4773
Despite its location on the water, Tel Aviv has surprisingly few seafront restaurants—which is why Manta Ray, an open-air pavilion that touches the sand, is such a city favorite. Go in the late afternoon for tapas or in the evening for chef Ronen Skinezes's seafood-centric dinner menu: He might roast scallops, shrimp, and mushrooms and toss them with tomato vinaigrette, or mix scallops and calamari into eggplant risotto. Manta Ray also serves an excellent breakfast.
26 Ibn Gvirol Street
Tel: 972 3 696 6843
Martha Kitchen and Bar is notable for its cuisine as well as its prime city-center location. It's on bustling Ibn Gvirol Street (Tel Aviv's answer to Broadway), near the New Opera House and the Nation Theater, and in the Z.O.A. (Zionist Organization of America) House, which is owned by Israeli expat and fashion mogul Elie Tahari. The food is modern Euro-Mediterranean: The chef enlivens red tuna sashimi with quinoa, herbs, and roasted red peppers; rests roasted eggplant on a bed of organic lentils and tops it with a dollop of sour cream; and pairs veal filets with a blend of champignons and portobello mushrooms. Martha's wine listsourced from Europe, the U.S., South America, and Israelis pages long, and there are homemade flavored vodkas, such as cinnamon, vanilla-cardamom, ginger-lemon, or lavender-citron.
12 Shmuel Hanagid
Tel: 972 2 622 2283
Located in cosmopolitan West Jerusalem, Mona is set in an art-filled cultural institution popular with the city's ever-dwindling secular population. Perhaps that explains why it's always packed on Friday nights with folks eager for a table at one of the few restaurants open during the Sabbath. Upscale but still casual, Mona serves up classics such as hamburgers, steaks, grilled shrimp, and summer salads.
87 Hayarkon Street
Tel: 972 3 522 6464
Tel Aviv native Raphael Cohen is the city's most celebrated chef, having first made his name at Jerusalem's King David Hotel before coming home and opening his own dining room overlooking the sea. Cohen, or Rafi as he's known, is a pioneer of what might be called mod-Med cuisine. He creates dishes based on Middle Eastern and Levantine traditions but lightens them up for modern tastes: sea bream roasted with olive oil, dried peppers, and eggplant caviar; veal cheek confit with black lentils and root vegetables. Come for lunch, especially on Saturday—the only time the chef serves his mezes—or for drinks in the evening at the Hamara Bar.
7 King David Street
Tel: 972 2 621 2030
Set in the exec-friendly David Citadel Hotel—a favorite of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—Scala is the first truly high-design restaurant in Jerusalem, with interiors by cutting-edge Italian architect Piero Lissoni. Set just beyond the hotel's family-packed all-day café, Scala is much more grown-up, with clean-lined, dark wooden tables; low recessed lighting; and a towering display of wines, heavy on top Israeli vintages. Scala has stellar foodie bona fides along with its design pedigree: Chef Oren Yerushalmi hails from WD-50 in New York and Tel Aviv's Catit, which many consider Israel's best restaurant. At Scala, Yerushalmi serves kosher (i.e., dairy-free) versions of the pan-Mediterranean cuisine he mastered at Catit, such as beef short-rib casserole with chestnut tortellini; entrecôte with tahini and eggplant; and seared sea bream with roasted peppers, eggplant, and olives.
Open Saturdays through Thursdays 7 to 11 pm.