Food Fight: Jerusalem Garden

Jerusalem Garden is one of the best and most affordable Middle Eastern restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor. It’s the perfect place for a family dinner.

Jerusalem Garden
Image courtesy of Jerusalem Garden.

Jerusalem Garden (JG) is a lovely and affordable Middle Eastern restaurant with delicious, edible offerings for the entire family to enjoy. It has recently reopened indoor service in its airy, artful, and nature-oriented Liberty Street location, which was formally Seva. 

During the height of COVID, JG was mainly serving carryout and delivery, and also had some patio dining. Now customers are happy to again be enjoying their indoor relaxing atmosphere while they dine. 

What is especially nice about JG is that it has numerous vegetarian, gluten-free, and countless healthful food options. The menu offers main entrees, sandwiches, salads, sides, and desserts that are all generous in portion size. Their beverage options are also delightful. 

Looking Back

When I attended college at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, I would frequent the old Jerusalem Garden location in the late 1980s on 5th Avenue. This was when the founder and Palestinian immigrant Ribhi Ramlawi would serve customers in its tiny venue that could only hold a handful of people. I recall the clientele was as diverse as JG’s food: university professors, Community High students, townies, moms with their children, along with other colorful folks. We all huddled together in quaint quarters to enjoy Ribhi and his food-making performances. As the restaurant states on its website: “Jerusalem Garden’s founder Ribhi Ramlawi was a quiet man who welcomed anyone into his tiny restaurant. His spirit of kindness and openness imbued the place he established in 1987 to support his family.”

I also recall Ribhi was a kind, peaceful, and meditative man, with a genuinely welcoming smile to each and every person who entered his restaurant. He would personally carefully shape the falafel patties before deep-frying them. And now Ribhi’s son, Ali Ramlawi, runs the restaurant and carries on many of the same traditions and works very hard every day, as his father did. 

Jerusalem Garden
Image courtesy of Jerusalem Garden.

Jerusalem Garden has Numerous Delicacies 

Eating at Jerusalem Garden, then and even now, makes me think that I could possibly become a vegetarian. All of their vegetarian options are so delectable and complex in flavor. While the meat offerings are nice, I seem to be enjoying the vegetarian options more lately. Furthermore, they offer their Falafel Sandwiches in multiple ways including with Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Yogurt and Cucumber, and Hummus and Fattoush.

Hummus is mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Baba ghanoush is mashed cooked eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and various seasonings. Fattoush is a special salad primarily made with mixed vegetables.

JG’s vegetarian grape leaves are full of rice, currants, tomato, and spices. Their fattoush salad is sure to please with finely cut parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers, red onions, carrot, lemon, salt, vinegar, olive oil, and sumac — all placed atop a bed of romaine lettuce.

A customer favorite for kids and adults alike is reportedly the chicken shawarma with marinated, charbroiled chicken and yogurt garlic sauce.

Recently Reopened Dine-in at Jerusalem Garden

Jerusalem Garden reopened its restaurant for indoor dining on June 26. According to its Facebook page, it’s also a special day:

“It has been 34 years to the day (June 26) since the birth of a most amazing story in which the lives of so many have been brought together in countless ways, resulting in numerous lifelong memories and friendships…So it was only fitting that just as that accidental special day 34 years ago that we finally reopened our doors at 314 E. Liberty for dine-in.”

We have been to the location on Liberty many times and have always been pleased by the food and service.

The dine-in atmosphere is relaxing with wooden tables, murals, plants, framed artwork, and nice lighting. The overall ambiance is cheerful and serene. Additionally, the service is always top-notch.

314 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. 734-995-5060. jerusalemgarden.net.

The Short Course

Kid-friendly: The menu has many items for kids such as lentil soup, falafel, and cut veggies.
Kids’ menu: No specific kids’ menu, but prices and portions from the regular menu are perfect for kids as well as for adults.
Anything healthy for kids: Everything is healthy. Chicken shawarma and fattoush salad are great healthy choices.
Food allergy concerns: Can accommodate, ask the server.
Noise Level: Moderate inside.
Bathroom Amenities: Clean and manageable.
Highchairs: Unknown.
To Avoid the Wait: Indoor can usually seat right away.