When I was a kid, I wouldn’t go anywhere near vegetables. The closest I would go was corn. My Mother would try to get me to eat ANY sort of vegetable product, but it never worked. I’m lucky I never got gout or some kind of vegetable deficiency disorder. My Mother and I always went to Ann Arbor for my guitar lessons or just to walk around, and she always tried to convince me to try a restaurant called Jerusalem Garden. This place was seriously anti-John. Middle Eastern food? No, thanks. Vegetables? No way. I guaranteed her I would never allow myself to be subjected to such craziness. Somehow, one day, she convinced me to go in and give it a try. I can’t thank her enough for her persistence. I ordered a falafel with hummus minus the lettuce and tomatoes. The waiter gave me an odd look but fulfilled my request. Later on he asked my Mom if I knew what I was eating and she almost slapped him. The site of me eating vegetables was a beautiful one for her. Especially since I was enjoying them so much.
Jerusalem Garden is easily my favorite food venue in Ann Arbor. Their price, quality, quantity, and service is unmatched. It is always my first destination when showing a friend around Ann Arbor and no one has ever had any complaints. Jerusalem Garden isn’t just the oldest Middle Eastern restaurant in Ann Arbor, it’s also easily the best. Anyone who lives in this area and appreciates Middle Eastern food will tell you this. Even people who typically shy away from these types of food can enjoy it. This is one of those great hole in the wall type places that help make the Ann Arbor food scene better.
Until a few years ago, the restaurant only fit about 10 or so customers. Your choices were to wait for a seat, or take your sandwich with you as you walk around the city. The front dining room is only a few feet deep, so after coming in the door you squeeze between the people at the counter and the front window and make your way to the empty stool, which is usually the far one. If you sit there at the front counter you can watch the counter-cultural cooks fry falafel and grill meat for the sandwiches. In the back dining room there are maybe four small tables, which are better if you come with a group of three or more. If you’re going to be eating there and weather permits, take a seat on the outside patio. One of the best experiences you can possibly have in Ann Arbor is a lunch at Jerusalem Garden on their patio. Perfect place to relax or just people watch.
Jerusalem Garden’s food is very different than the traditional style of other Middle Eastern restaurants. The meat isn’t skewered but grilled, giving their chicken and beef a different texture. Any dish offers a distinctive take on familiar Middle Eastern foods. The food isn’t particularly authentic, but everything is very tasty. As I have experienced more Middle Eastern food, I have learned that there are multiple kinds of falafel in the world, but I will always have a loyalty to Jereselum Garden’s. Mainly becauase it’s the best. They are quite large, crispy on the outside, and flavorful and a little spicy on the inside. I’m completely serious when I say that access to these falafel sandwiches is one of the best parts about living in Ann Arbor. The hummus is delicious and well balanced, with the perfect amount of lemon. I used to buy hummus from them, but it got to the point where I would buy three or four falafel sandwiches every time I would go to buy it and dip them into the hummus. Delicious, but a little ridiculous.
I’ve not too often that I get myself to order anything besides the falafel sandwich with hummus, but the chicken shawarma is also one of the best I’ve had. You can watch the cooks grill your chicken right in front of you, and whatever they marinate it with.. Well.. I’m thinking about breaking in and stealing the recipe. The combo plates are not as cheap as the sandwiches($9-$10), but come with a very reasonable amount of food. I will say that the perfect way to start any meal here is a bowl of their crushed lentil soup. I’ve only had better lentil soup at one restaurant, and it cost about the same as an entire meal costs at Jerusalem Garden.
If you’re ever visiting the Ann Arbor area, or live there and for some reason haven’t been, stop in for a visit. It’s the epitome of what Ann Arbor used to be, and is truly one of the best stops in the city. It’s one of a kind, and is going to be one of the things I miss the most if I am ever forced to relocate.