Food Issue - Around the world: Israel

Jerusalem Bakery's cafe culture

Thursday October 21, 2010 04:00 am EDT

With the drone of South Marietta Parkway and the scent of strip-mall asphalt retreating behind you, Jerusalem Bakery's welcoming embrace arrives in the form of a gurgling courtyard fountain and shelves stacked high with freshly baked pita.

Make your way through the bakery — perhaps stopping to buy some za'atar bread and a spinach pie for later — and approach the deli counter. There you'll find a mounted menu of Middle Eastern basics, the requisite spits of roasting meat, and a discerning, silver-haired man behind the counter who's quick to let the cashier know — with a sly smile — whether he thinks you're OK.

The family-owned space is bare-bones but cheery, with arched doorways and warm yellow walls. The small courtyard, anchored by the fountain, is the provenance of middle-aged men, chattering in Hebrew and lazing away the sunny afternoon over cups of strong coffee. Overall, the mood is that of a simple, casual café — one that ought to offer a view of the gold dome of Temple Mount.

Dig into some tahini-heavy hummus and cinnamon-spiked chicken shawarma, and be sure to leave some room for baklava.

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