By| Tashween Ali

Among the many Mediterranean and European restaurants on Old Town Street, Old Jerusalem appears as an Arabian oasis.  Open for 35 years, this Lebanese restaurant honors its commitment to fresh ingredients and authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. Brass wall hangings and warm maroon and crème colors fill the interior, producing an authentic ambiance. The casual atmosphere, with the option to dine inside or in their outdoor patio during the summer months, creates an environment for great conversation and reunions.

Any one of their appetizers is a great start to the meal. The labneh, home strained yogurt topped with olive oil, epitomizes their commitment to freshness. Not too tart, it a tasty, healthy option. Their baba ganouj, blended eggplant and tahini served as a cold dip with tomatoes, onions, olive oil, with its surprising smoky taste and melded fresh herbs is scrumptious. Loyal customers also enjoy the Jerusalem salad, with diced tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley dressed with tahini and olive oil. The Lebanese pita, if only served warm, is otherwise just right; soft and light. The falafel , perfectly crispy on the outside and moist and flavorful inside without being greasy, is available as a sandwich or a platter of seven.

As for entrees, combination vegetarian or combination platter (meat) are the best deals that allow a sampling of most items on the menu. All entrée options have large proportions. However, they lack variety in preparations for their meat entrees.  For example, unlike most Middle Eastern restaurants, they don’t prepare chicken shawirma, but only a beef and lamb combination.  The shawirma, rather than diced like at most other Middle Eastern restaurants, is sliced like gyro meat. They even proclaim that their shawirma sandwich is “Our version of a Gyro.” However, despite the limited variation, they are confident that their recipes are unique, and with sharp spices and flavors, they are right; they don’t need to provide options. Their sandwiches are also generously large and delectable, but are hard to eat. Rather than wrapping the bread around the filling, the filling is stuffed into the pita bread, which often breaks. You may need a fork and knife, but it’s worth the effort. For a small BYOB fee, customers can save money on booze if they choose and the Arabic coffee is worth a try. As for dessert, they offer three pastry options: baklawa, harisa and kinafa. The service is a hit or miss, sometimes the wait staff is friendly and patient and other times rude  but the food is consistently satisfying. And with its quick table and delivery service, it’s worth the time. If you’re in Old Town, Old Jerusalem is must try place.

4/5 GLAM Stars

Old Jerusalem Restaurant
1411 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL

Must try:

Baba Ganouj


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