Jerusalem eats: Tasty breakfasts in the Holy City

Publication Date23 July 2021
What is it about the country's signature smorgasbord of salads, omelets, cheeses, breads and pastries that brings so much happiness to people from all around the world? Is it the fusion of locally sourced colors and flavors? The history and variety of the dishes? Or is it the pace of the smorgasbord itself?

I had a lot of opportunities to philosophize about the meaning of the most important meal of the day as I visited some of the Holy City's best cafés to sample their morning meals. And I think the Israeli breakfast represents a certain way of life.

It's not just the food itself. I don't think most people salivate when they imagine dipping their slice of bread into a small bowl of freshly made tehina or labaneh cheese. And the thought of chowing down on a plate of scrambled eggs with herbs and mushrooms isn't the visceral experience that I enjoy when I bite into a great burger. But the presentation of all of these elements together in the right way gives the Israeli breakfast the power to create a luxurious oasis of time where every bite is a pleasure and calories don't matter.

Decisions like "Should I dip my next bite of bread into the olive spread or the avocado dip?" feel effortless when whiling the hours away with friends or loved ones. Don't bother ordering a platter like this if you're in a hurry – the pace just doesn't work.

My wife, my sister or my mom joined me on each of my breakfast-sampling excursions (except one), because to me breakfast is more of a girl thing than a guy thing. Either way, it's definitely a great morning date.

Each of the eateries we sampled provided us with complimentary meals, but the most fun part of researching an article like this isn't the free food. It's the opportunity to speak with the owner or manager of each place and learn about their history and what they want to offer that others don't.

I've heard some people suggest that complimentary food corrupts restaurant reviews, but my experience is the opposite: that cooperating with the management helps me get a much richer experience to share with readers. So I hope you'll allow yourself to live vicariously through me as I eat my way through the city.

All restaurants are kosher with rabbinate supervision unless otherwise noted. It should also be mentioned that we didn't visit any hotel breakfast buffets, which are a whole different category.

1. Café Oranim – 35 Shai Agnon Street |

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We start our journey with a new kid on the block. Café Oranim opened in the San Simon neighborhood in March in the spot formerly occupied by Café Luigi, just as Israel was coming out of its last coronavirus lockdown.

My wife Sara and I knew that the spot had a large garden, but we are surprised at how inviting the new owner had made it. The owner, Elad, says this was central to his vision for the venue.

"The goal was to create a beautiful pastoral garden restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem," Elad says. "There are outdoor seating areas on both sides of the restaurant, ample parking and even a small area for dogs to be let loose. We can host events for groups of all sizes."

Sara and I start daydreaming about planning our daughter's bat mitzvah here.

Elad also owns an event hall in Talpiot, and has extensive experience in Jerusalem's food industry. He invested heavily in fixing up the place and hiring a top chef from one of Jerusalem's most upscale hotels. But he had plenty of time to prepare for the opening – he signed on the location just weeks before the coronavirus crisis began last winter, and then let it lie fallow for more than a year before things began reopening.

Elad knows he will have to work hard to stand out in the Jerusalem scene, and he aims to deliver.

Breakfast is brought out in colorful Jerusalem-vintage-style dishes, and our various salads are spread out on a small platform the waiters set up on the table, saving valuable space and making the experience feel even more royal.

The fare is the classic Israeli breakfast we are expecting – eggs, bread, salads, a cold drink during the meal, a hot drink after – served in large...

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