Ever since NileGuide announced the $5 meal challenge I’ve been desperately searching around Jerusalem to try to find ANYTHING apart from the ubiquitous felafel (about $2.75) that fits that bill.
Lunch with traditional Israeli food for $5?? That’s about 19NIS (New Israeli Shekel)–that’s what most places here charge for a glass of ice coffee, not lunch…BUT, then I remembered my friend Udi who works for the City of Jerusalem. Udi had taken me out to lunch a couple of times at the City cafeteria that’s located in the lovely Safra Square complex in central Jerusalem.
It doesn’t have a name but it’s one of the best deals in town and it’s open to the public despite the fact that you’ll never see it advertised–anywhere. Here, in an airy, high-ceilinged room just a few steps away from the Old City walls, you’ll enjoy a subsidized lunch courtesy of the City of Jerusalem. OK, it’s slightly more than $5–the current set price is 28 NIS (about $7) but believe me, there is NOTHING else at any sit-down place in Jerusalem that even comes close to this value for money.
The cafeteria is open from 11:30 a.m-4 p.m Sunday-Thursday and is located at Building 4 in Safra Square (Kikar Safra if you’re asking for directions)
Friendly city workers will greet you at the buffet-style serving area and you’ll choose a first course of fresh salads that include all the Middle Eastern specialties: spicy Moroccan carrot and cilantro; crunchy red cabbage; regular coleslaw; hummus; tabbouleh.
Slide your tray along to the next section where you’ll be offered a main course of either fish of the day or sliced beef, roast chicken or chicken schnitzel. That comes with two side dishes of rice and/or potatoes (no one is looking if you take both) and a cooked vegetable from whatever happens to be in season. A piece of seasonal fresh fruit for dessert, a quick pass through the cash register and you’re free to find a table.
If you’re there during the lunch hour rush–generally between 12:30 p.m-2 p.m you could find yourself with a table mate from the city workforce–most speak English and will be happy to entertain you with stories about what it’s like to work for the municipality of one of the most complex cities in the world.