Mezze platter at Cleo restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada Mezze platter at Cleo restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada Cleo restaurant in Las Vegas specializes in contemporary Mediterranean cuisine. (Photo: Cleo)

Our guide to the top U.S. restaurants that serve Israeli cuisine

We've rounded up the best places to experience the flavors and freshness of Mediterranean food.

The Israeli food boom is showing no signs of a bust. And there's no better evidence of that than the multitude of Israeli-influenced restaurants popping up stateside – restaurants that are racking up the awards, stars and reviews from the world's top critics.

So with that in mind, we thought it would be fitting to round up our favorites, organized by region, to ensure you never have to let geography hold you back from trying any (or all!) of these remarkable eateries.

The Northeast

Popular Mediterranean dishes like waffles and shakshouka from restaurant Jack's Wife FredaGreen shakshouka (above left) is a super-popular dish at Manhattan restaurant Jack's Wife Freda. (Photo: Henry Hargreaves)

Restaurant: Jack's Wife Freda

City: New York

Chef: Dean and Maya Jankelowitz

Signature dish: Green shakshouka

Yelp rating: Four stars

Why we love it: The 5-year-old eatery with three locations in Manhattan has built a reputation as a buzzy Soho eatery, where the downtown fashion set descends en masse to nosh on its vast selection of brunch items. With a menu ranging from Mediterranean lamb dishes to rosewater waffles, it's no wonder this place has become a New York institution. (The shakshouka, by the way, is green because it's made with tomatillos.)


shakshoukaShakshouka with fresh bread and Israeli salad at 12 Chairs Cafe in New York. (Photo: Yelp/12 Chairs)

Restaurant: 12 Chairs Cafe

City: New York

Chef/owner: Shimon Maman

Popular dish: Shakshouka with fresh bread and Israeli salad

Yelp rating: Four stars

Why we love it: Everything about 12 Chairs, from the décor to the menu, has a touch of Israeli flair, and those who have been, keep coming back for the food, authenticity and warm hospitality. “You really feel like you have traveled to Israel and are sitting in your mother’s kitchen,” Maman says.


The Mid-Atlantic

Zahav's world famous hummus dish. Zahav's world famous hummus tehina dish. (Photo: Zahav/Facebook)

Restaurant: Zahav

City: Philadelphia, Pa.

Chef: Michael Solomonov

Popular dish: Hummus tehina

Yelp rating: Four and a half stars

Awards: James Beard Award, Outstanding Chef, 2017; James Beard Award, Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2011.

Why we love it: Zahav is critically regarded for its Israeli-themed dishes, and it's the seven different outstanding versions of hummus on the menu that truly steal the show. Solomonov, who was born in Israel, says the rise of Mediterranean-influenced food is indicative of both its taste and health benefits. Since opening his flagship restaurant in 2008, Solomonov has turned Zahav into a Philadelphia landmark, known for dynamite hummus, fresh-baked pita and homestyle treasures like roasted eggplant and bourekas.


Many customers at Mishmish are regulars, and come in twice a day.Mishmish's Moroccan fish (left) is a classic Mediterranean dish that regulars love. (Photo: Nicci Silva)

Restaurant: Mishmish

City: Montclair, N.J.

Chef: Meny Vaknin

Popular dish: Moroccan fish

Yelp rating: Four and a half stars

Why we love it: Israeli-born Vaknin, who's appeared on the Food Network show "Chopped" three times, had always planned to open a restaurant that would represent the Mediterranean dishes and flavors of his youth. With Mishmish, he gets his wish, plus a sizable group of regulars who demand he never wavers from signature plates like lamb meatball shakshouka, smoked eggplant, fried cauliflower and Moroccan fish. I keep the core of the menu the way it is and add to it with seasonality and local stuff to keep it interesting,” Vaknin says.


The Midwest

spring dishes at Ema restaurant in ChicagoEma's spring dishes comprise a fresh selection of mezze dishes, including their spicy hummus (left). (Photo: Ema)

Restaurant: Ema

City: Chicago, Ill.

Chef: C.J. Jacobson

Signature dish: Spicy hummus with fresh pita

Yelp rating: Four stars

Why we love it: California-born Chef C.J. Jacobson fell in love with Mediterranean cuisine while playing professional volleyball in Israel. When he decided to turn his passion into a career, he chose a unique blend of cuisines – the lighter West Coast style of his childhood and the exotic Israeli flavors of his early adulthood – as inspiration for Ema. And the Windy City welcomed it with open, hungry arms.


The South

Persian rice recipeAlon Shaya's Persian rice is a favorite at his award-winning New Orleans restaurant. (Photo: Graham Blackall)

Restaurant: Shaya

City: New Orleans, La.

Chef: Alon Shaya

Popular dish: Persian rice

Awards: James Beard Award, Best Chef-South; Esquire Magazine, Best New Restaurant, 2015; James Beard Award, Best New Restaurant, 2016

Yelp rating: Four and a half stars

Why we love it: Shaya's innovative and charming pairings of Mediterranean classics like hummus, tabbouleh and shakshouka with Deep South staples like Louisiana shrimp, gumbo and jambalaya have been lapping up rave reviews since opening in 2015. "It’s one thing to have pita; it’s another to have the best pita you’ve ever had in your life," Esquire food critic Tom Junod said. "How does a restaurant even do that?"


Falafel with sauceA freshly-prepared plate of Kameel's signature falafels. (Photo: Anna Norris)

Restaurant: Aviva by Kameel

City: Atlanta, Ga.

Chef: Kameel Srouji

Popular dish: Fresh falafel

Awards: No. 13 Top Place to Eat in 2015, Yelp

Yelp rating: Five stars

Why we love it: This quick-serve cafe known for its mouth-watering falafel and charismatic proprietor feels more like walking into an old friend's home than a shopping-mall restaurant. Owner Srouji has earned praise from his downtown Atlanta clientele for his warm, inviting personality. He doesn't miss an opportunity to tell each customer how much he loves them and values their patronage. "Hello, my brother!" he exclaims as guests approach. "Sir, you can have anything you want! Without you, I am nothing!" He certainly gives "power lunch" a whole new meaning.


The West Coast

house-made gnocchi with asparagus pureeThe gnocchi dish at Crossroads is dairy-free and made on the premises. (Photo: Courtesy)

Restaurant: Crossroads Kitchen

City: Los Angeles, Calif.

Chef/owner: Tal Ronnen

Popular dish: House-made gnocchi with asparagus puree

Yelp rating: Four stars

Why we love it: There are many vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, but Tal Ronnen's Crossroads restaurant takes a decidedly different approach, providing an upscale dining experience with a gourmet plant-based menu of Mediterranean fare in which elegantly prepared vegetables are the shining stars. "The food at Crossroads is Mediterranean first and vegan second," Ronnen said.


The chicken shawarma baguette is a popular menu item at Ta-eem Grill.The chicken shawarma baguette is a popular menu item at Ta-eem Grill. (Photo: Ta-eem Grill)

Restaurant: Ta-eem Grill

City: Los Angeles, Calif.

Chef/owner: Yoel Kraizberger

Popular dish: Chicken shawarma baguette

Yelp rating: Four and a half stars

Why we love it: Since opening in 2014, Ta-eem Grill has been the go-to destination for shawarma, falafel, laffa, hummus, baba ghanoush and other traditional Israeli foods. Their authentic Mediterranean cuisine has attracted the likes of Billy Crystal, Jeff Goldblum, Tobey Maguire, NBA star Jared Cunningham and "Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot. "If you do something and you do it right and exactly for what you believe in, you will succeed," owner Kraizberger told us.


Oren's Hummus in Palo Alto, Calif., prides itself on wholesome ingredients and an authentic Mediterranean menu.Oren's Hummus in Palo Alto, Calif., prides itself on wholesome ingredients and an authentic Mediterranean menu. (Photo: kennejima/Flickr)

Restaurant: Oren's Hummus

City: Palo Alto, Calif.

Chef/owner: Oren Dobronsky

Popular dish: What else? A big plate of creamy hummus.

Yelp rating: Four stars

Why we love it: Tel Aviv native Dobronsky has been making hummus the main event at his Silicon Valley-area shop since 2011. Now, Oren's Hummus counts on a clientele of people who want to eat healthy but don't have the time or resources to conjure up healthy meals on their own. The hummus has been dubbed "the Bay Area's best," and its owners, Dobronsky and business partner David Cohen, say they import more than 60,000 pounds of chickpeas from Israel every year, along with tahini, pickles, olives, oils and spices. It's "authentic Israeli hummus," Dobronsky says, and his customers know it; their Palo Alto location has been so successful that in 2014, they opened a new, fast-casual-concept location in Mountain View.


The Southwest

small plates at Cleo restaurant in Las VegasSmall, shareable plates (like artichoke flatbread, bottom right) are a big hit at Las Vegas's Cleo. (Photo: Cleo)

Restaurant: Cleo

City: Las Vegas, Nev.

Chef: Danny Elmaleh

Popular dish: Artichoke flatbread

Yelp rating: Four stars

Why we love it: When it opened in 2014, Cleo was hailed as “one of the most distinctive restaurants to arrive on the Boulevard in years” by Vegas Magazine. Indeed, it is a one-of-a-kind dining destination, a mishmash of Las Vegas glitz and contemporary Mediterranean spice. Its distinctive tasting menu offers the best of mezze, with Chef Elmaleh's acclaimed garlic shrimp and artichoke pizza taking starring roles.


The Pacific Northwest

Tusk's signature hummusTusk's signature hummus. (Photo: AJ Meeker/Tusk)

Restaurant: Tusk

City: Portland, Ore.

Chef: Sam Smith

Popular dish: Tusk hummus with calcot onions, chickpeas, hazelnuts, Aleppo peppers and flatbread

Yelp rating: Four and a half stars

Why we love it: Named one of Food & Wine Magazine's best new restaurants, Tusk is 100% ingredient-driven and changes every day depending on what’s available that morning. The dishes are very vegetable-forward, and there are a lot of colorful salads, but it’s not a vegetarian restaurant. You’ll find plenty of meat dishes too, including kibbe naya, a Levantine dish that the chef makes with green wheat and raw lamb, skewers of grilled meat or potatoes and lamb shoulder stew.


perogies at an Israeli restaurantMy personal favorite. I could live off these. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Restaurant: Ray

City: Portland, Ore.

Chef: Jenn Louis

Popular dish: Pierogies

Yelp rating: Four stars

Why we love it: Humans have been cooking in Israel since the beginning of civilization. How could a chef reinvent food that had been around for millennia? We were skeptical – until we tried it. The pierogies – a personal favorite of our staff writer, Ilana Strauss – are "buttery and beautifully decorated, served in a bath of caramelized onions." And if anyone can pull it off, it's Chef Louis, who was named a "Best New Chef" by Food and Wine.

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