The brunch bunch

Café Rimon in Jerusalem offers a sumptuous Friday bargain.

The brunch bunch (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The brunch bunch
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Among the more veteran restaurants in Jerusalem is Café Rimon, which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary. The original Café Rimon is situated on Luntz Street, accessible on one side from Ben-Yehuda Street and on the other from Jaffa Road. In recent years it also opened a second branch in the Alrov Mamilla Mall. Both branches are almost always crowded, despite ever-growing nearby competition.
Rimon on Luntz Street has an advantage over its rivals in that it has two adjacent dining areas on the ground floor - one meat and one dairy. It was originally a dairy restaurant but some years ago, when several meat restaurants opened in the area, Rimon rose to the challenge and expanded its operations to include meat, albeit in a distinctively separate section.
Both sections attract a huge clientele, and one often has to wait for a seat, especially on Fridays when Rimon offers one of the best deals in town – an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch for NIS 49.
Having sampled the Luntz Street experience and enjoyed it, I suggested to a friend a couple of weeks later that we go there. She said she was on a diet and would have only coffee but would keep me company while I ate. She got there before me and, after inspecting the variety of choices with which she could pile her plate, she changed her mind and decided to eat. There were lots of salads and other healthy and nutritious offerings, but I noticed that having opted to eat, my friend also abandoned her diet – especially when it came to dessert.
There are some things that are standard on the buffet, such as baby potatoes in cream sauce. Sometimes there are also mushrooms in cream sauce. There are several kinds of rolls and breads, egg salad, tuna salad, bourekas, cucumber and tomato salad, spiced cherry tomatoes, pickled herring, shakshuka, macaroni, yellow cheese and several cream cheeses that are standard fare week after week as is fruit salad, but there are numerous other options that change from one week to the next. The meal comes with a soft drink in a tall glass. If one wants coffee, there is an additional token charge.
By mid-morning on a Friday, Rimon looks like the dining room of a religious matchmaking service. Because of its high standard of kashrut, plus its bargain price, it serves as a magnet for yeshiva boys and seminary girls. Many are native English speakers, and the most common accent is American.
The Mamilla branch also attracts a mainly religious clientele, but the ambience is different. The Mamilla patrons wear more stylish and expensive-looking clothes, and a fair percentage are tourists per se as distinct from students who have come to Israel for a semester or a year’s study. There are slight differences in the buffet and the service is neither as friendly nor as efficient as that on Luntz, but the backdrop of David’s Village and the walls of the Old City perhaps compensates for any deficiency. The soft drink is not included in the price, and the orange juice that came in a smaller glass than that on Luntz was heavily diluted, in sharp contrast to the undiluted version on Luntz, and cost NIS 9. This was ludicrous in comparison to what one could eat for NIS 49. But the food was excellent, and the buffet tables were quickly replenished. The sour note came at noon when the staff quickly cleared the buffet food and removed the tables. Anyone who had arrived five minutes earlier managed to get a few dregs, which were certainly worth NIS 49, but the scrambling for it wasn’t worth the effort.
Café Rimon
Luntz Street and Mamilla Mall, Jerusalem