A visit to Israel needs to include a trip to Mahane Yehuda, the Jerusalem shuk or market, that has been significantly renovated and gentrified over the last ten years, offering a more urbane experience than the cucumber-and-tomato selection of its earlier history. There are some who feel the shuk has become too much of a tourist stop, with more upscale purveyors as well as restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques that draw a different kind of shuk shopper. It’s true, you’d be hard-pressed to avoid fellow tourists and travelers — whether Israeli or not — at the market, particularly on Fridays and during the summer.
But this is still the Jerusalem market where locals and visitors regularly enjoy the feast of flavors, whether shopping for their Shabbat table or going out for a Jerusalem night on the town. We think it’s best to check out the shuk on a Thursday night, when you can get your weekend marketing done, dine at a local trattoria and then head to one of the bars and pubs located in and around the shuk.
Just so you know, Thursdays aren’t a must either, particularly in the summer. If you’d rather do this during the week, consider Mondays, when you’ll happen upon Balabasta, a cultural event that takes place Monday evenings in August, or head to the shuk on any day but Monday, Thursday or Friday, when you’re sure to meet less of a crowd.
6:00 pm: Stop off for an after-work (or after-tour) nibble at Basher’s Resto Cheese Bar on Agrippas, the latest addition from the market stall that offers every imaginable form of cheese, and all kosher. Or, java up at the Teller Bakery outlet on Agrippas, with a fresh roll and a cappucino.
(No stopping at Re:Bar or Aroma! Can’t have shuk-shoppers patronizing national chains rather than the shuk-bred mom-and-pop stalls.)
7:00 pm: Do your shopping first, and beat the Friday rush: Pick up some fresh pita (preferably sprinkled with za’atar, a spice blend based on hyssop) at the Hava Brothers Bakery; grab a few Israeli microbrews at one of the well-stocked liquor stores on Agrippas; choose chewy dried pineapple, mango and luscious medjool dates, along with a selection of freshly roasted nuts for munching at Moreno; sample tangy olives (and spit your pit out in the available container), and select seasonal fruits and vegetables at any one of the stalls lining the shuk streets.
8:00 pm: Dine al fresco in the shuk — start with pasta at Pasta Basta (basta is Arabic slang for a market stall), add some freshly-fried fish and chips at Fishen Chips or fill your belly with Mama’s best, Iraqi style, kube soup — meat-filled dumplings in a tomato broth during the cold winter months at Ima’s.
9:30 pm: Time for drinks: Begin your pub crawl at Casino de Paris or Yudaleh, two different kinds of bars in opposite areas of the shuk (Casino offers mixed drinks with a local flavor, bar snacks, bite-size sandwiches and Israeli beers in the Georgian market; Yudaleh is a Mediterranean tapas bar with a wide wine selection, just outside the main drag of the market). There’s also bound to be some live music in the shuk, sometimes at one of the cafes on Machane Yehuda Street, or during the summers along HaShezif, outside Cafe Mizrachi.
11:00 pm (or later): Need a late-night snack? If you’re still hungry, head to the recently renovated Hatzot on Agrippas, for their special spiced chicken-in-a-pita, which will certainly keep you sated until breakfast. Another fave option are the candy or nut-and-dried-fruit stands – if you catch one still open – where you can gorge yourself on sour strips, gummy bears/Coke bottles/strawberries/worms, all weighed by the kilo and high in sugar content. It’ll keep you occupied all the way home.
1. Basher’s Resto Cheese Bar: 21 Rechov Agrippas
2. Teller Baker, 74 Agrippas
3. Hava Brothers, 6 Mahane Yehuda
4. Moreno, Mahane Yehuda
5. Pasta Basta: 8 Hatut
6. Fishen Chips: 12 Haegoz
7. Ima: Etz HaChaim
8. Casino de Paris, Georgian Market
9. Yudaleh, 11 Beit Yaakov
10. Cafe Mizrachi, 8 HaShezif
11. Hatzot, 123 Agrippas
Aroma: 26 Mahane Yehuda