Jerusalem offers range of night spots for quiet conversation

As pounding music becomes the norm in every kind of eatery, here’s where you can dine out and have a civilized conversation sans shouting or cigarette smoke.

Anna Italian Cafe (photo credit: NOAM PREISMAN)
Anna Italian Cafe
(photo credit: NOAM PREISMAN)
Normally cool, bustling spots go hand-in-hand with clamor. This is especially true given Israelis’ boisterous nature. The trendiest eateries are typically small, feature prominent bars, and blast music all the while eschewing sound-muffling carpets and tablecloths. However, luckily, that’s not always the case. Many people, it turns out, actually enjoy places where you can – gasp – sit and talk without losing your voice. This is especially important for when mom and dad are in town, when you’re on a date, or when you’re knee-deep in a Netanyahu vs Gantz discussion.
That’s exactly where the below Jerusalem spots come in, all of which stay relatively quiet while still boasting awesome vibes and tasty food and drinks. Some of them even get brownie points for allowing patrons to sit outside without being assaulted by cigarette smoke.
Cave Bar
Down below the Villa Brown Jerusalem, part of the fast-expanding Brown Hotel empire, lies the Cave Bar. The space, which once served as the 19th-century residence’s water cistern, now is outfitted with a Moroccan vibe interior where you’ll get moderately priced small bites, cocktails and wine. It’s typically not crowded, so it’s the perfect spot for intimate conversations in a cool space.
54 Hanevi’im Street, Jerusalem (02) 501-1555; Kosher.
Gatsby Cocktail Room
True to its name, Gatsby is inspired by 1920s jazz speakeasies. Hidden behind an unmarked door, the Prohibition-era reminiscent secret entrance via a bookcase is further inside where perhaps a password would need to be proffered to gain entry. The bar offers creative craft cocktails (think of it as Jerusalem’s version of Tel Aviv’s award-winning Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar) along with a half-dozen small bite options like beef tataki and tuna tartare (the price range of both drinks and food is plus/minus NIS 55).
18 Hillel Street, Jerusalem 054-814-7143; Not Kosher.
Mirror Bar
You probably already know about the Mamilla Hotel’s gorgeous rooftop restaurant, but if you don’t manage to snag a table there, their Mirror Bar is an equally wonderful pick and it’s open late. They have an extensive drink menu (plus/minus NIS 55), small bites including dessert (NIS 38-88), and it’s the only place in Jerusalem to get Cuban cigars – but no worries – patrons wishing to light one may do so in a separate room. While there is a DJ, the space has a more lounge, rather than club feel if you come before 10 p.m. (the music gets progressively louder after 10 p.m.). Thursday nights withstanding, it’s usually relatively easy to find a spot, even without reservations.
11 Mamilla Road, Jerusalem (02) 548-2230; Kosher.
The Wine Bar at the King David Hotel
In keeping with the King David Hotel’s posh pedigree, its wine bar has an Old World, relaxing feel. The bartenders are amiable and they have an extensive list of carefully sourced Israeli wines, all of which are kosher and many of which are offered by the glass (plus/minus NIS 55) served with olives and salted nuts. The bar also has tasting options that change periodically and small snacks including focaccia, Caesar salad, pizza margarita, cheese platter and smoked salmon bagel (prices range from NIS 23-92).
23 King David Street, Jerusalem (02) 620-8784; Kosher.
The Notre Dame Rooftop Cheese and Wine Restaurant
Not only will you get views across Jerusalem from this stunning rooftop space – which is enclosed in the cooler months, meaning no cigarette smoke – but you’ll get some of the best cheese and wine in the city. There are 40 different imported cheeses offered along with a wine list featuring over 60 different vintages from around the world (with many options by the glass, most of which are around $10-$12). The best time to come here is at sunset when you’ll get truly spectacular views. For those looking for more than cheese platters ($28-$35) and wine, the rooftop space boasts an extensive, but pricey menu including salads, soups, pasta and risotto dishes, as well as meat and fish options. Note the default menu prices are in dollars (yes, a lot of tourists come here, but it’s a great spot for locals as well). You can pay with Israeli credit cards and request a menu in NIS.
3 Hatzanhanim Street, Jerusalem (02) 627-9177; Not Kosher.
Anna Italian Café
The great thing about Anna is that non-smokers have the say when it comes to the relatively quiet outside space – meaning if smoke is bothering you, someone from the staff will ask your neighbor to kindly stop smoking so you can enjoy the classic Italian fare (think gnocchi, pizza, grilled fish, tiramisu…) in the bright, airy space. As an added bonus, there’s a social mission behind the restaurant whereby they employ at-risk youth in the kitchen. Note Anna skews on the expensive side, with more than half of the main courses priced at over NIS 100.
10 Harav Agan Street, Jerusalem (02) 543-4144; Kosher.
OrienTop Restaurant
Mamilla’s rooftop isn’t the only game in town. OrienTop is the Orient Jerusalem Hotel’s latest venture. The roof space – which is enclosed during the winter (read: no smoking) – opened last summer and is located next to the hotel’s illuminated swimming pool. It has sweeping views, including of the Old City walls, and come the warmer months when it’s no longer enclosed, there are separate areas for smokers and non-smokers. Given the highbrow nature of the Orient Hotel, prices here aren’t cheap, but portions are relatively generous.
3 Emek Refaim Street, Jerusalem (02) 569-9090; Kosher.
This is a great date spot, whether you’re seated at a table or at the bar (sitting at the bar makes it more likely that you’ll get an extra little treat from the kitchen). The service is attentive and even when it’s packed, the noise level is bearable. The tasting menu, designed for sharing, is highly recommended for special occasions (NIS 285 per person). They also offer a “chef’s pick” option, which comes with breads, spreads, four starters and a main course (NIS 138 or NIS 168, depending on the price of the main). À la carte options range from vegan to steak.
36 Keren Hayesod Street, Jerusalem (02) 650-6808; Not Kosher.
By day, Nocturno is known as a meeting spot for designers and creatives who come to enjoy an extensive menu of fresh food – ingredients are sourced from nearby Mahaneh Yehuda market – and relaxed atmosphere at an affordable price (NIS 50-65 for main courses). By night, the space gets livelier with live performances, lectures, screenings, and events, but there is a separate area for those that are not interested in the live happenings. Note that all the live events are ticketed and tickets are more expensive when not purchased in advance. While smoking is allowed outside, the tables are far enough away from one another that if you’re seated away from smokers, you won’t feel assaulted.
7 Bezalel Street, Jerusalem 077-700-8510; Kosher.
Mona is one of those rare fine dining restaurants that manages to be sophisticated without being pretentious (though the prices can certainly be considered inflated). It’s located in a historic stone house (home of the Jerusalem Artists House) with a gorgeous, lush outdoor seating space where smoking is only permitted if all diners are fine with it. They music is low-key, background style, all of which contributes to Mona’s cozy atmosphere. The modern Israeli restaurant also has a bar area that’s lively without being obnoxiously loud.
12 Shmuel Hanagid Street, Jerusalem (02) 622-2283; Not Kosher.
Both the food and the wine country setting at Muma are rustic, but welcoming and there’s enough space between the beer garden-style wooden tables outside that any smoking shouldn’t be too bothersome (and the staff is accommodating about seating non-smokers together). It’s worth singling out that Muma’s kubaneh bread is a must. The mouthwatering brioche-style bread comes with dips and is well worth the buttery indulgence. Prices here are fair given the atmosphere and relatively generous portion sizes.
Kiryat Anavim, Jerusalem Hills (02) 645-9727; Not Kosher.
Hatzemach (Plant)
This just-opened spot right next to the famed Machneyuda restaurant (and also from chef Assaf Granit) is perfect for those looking for Machneyuda’s lively atmosphere and great food, but without the raucously loud music and table-side dancing. Expect similar sizes and portions, but everything is vegetarian. As of now there is only dinner service and no seating at the bar, but that should change in the coming months.
10 Beit Ya’akov, Jerusalem (02) 533-3442. Not Kosher.
Café Yehoshua
While sitting outside isn’t the best option for non-smokers given that the quarters are relatively tight, Café Yehoshua is a great find for a budget outing with a good atmosphere and relatively tame acoustics. By day it has café vibes and by night it has more of a bar atmosphere with an eclectic menu that melds Israeli, American and Italian cuisine.
17 Azza Street, Jerusalem, (02) 563-2898; Not Kosher.