Jerusalem Garden Café is where Lindsay took me to dinner on our Asheville Get-A-Way Weekend Extravaganza. This place is a hole-in-the-wall and from the outside it doesn’t look like much. However, once you open the door and step inside you’re transported immediately to the Mediterranean coast. Seriously, the inside décor is perfectly authentic. The ceiling is covered in red flowing fabric and old brass light fixtures. There are throw pillows everywhere and the tables sit low to the ground. It reminded me of a Bedouin tent. The whole place just seemed lavish and true to its roots. It was so authentic that I made sure my wallet was secure in my back pocket, because I just assumed that there would be gypsies.
The hostess greeted us at the door and told us that our table would be ready momentarily. Lindsay had called ahead and requested whatever they considered a good table since we’d never been there before. We had a corner booth. It was straight up gangster. The most gangster part of the whole thing was that the hostess kicked a couple out of our table. I couldn’t hear her exact words but in my head it went like this, “Excuse me, but Lindsay and Jay are here and you have to get the f*ck up right now, because no one makes Mr. Jay and Miss Lindsay wait. GET UP!” I say that because the dude gave me the stink eye when he walked by. It made me feel special.
We ordered a nice bottle of Merlot and settled into our amazing corner booth. Just as we popped open our vino, two gentlemen start playing the drums and sitar. They were good and they added a really cool vibe to the evening. There was even a belly dancer that accompanied them. I’m not into the dancing. I love looking at scantily dressed women shaking their moneymakers, but not while I’m eating. Plus, the tip jar on her head made me feel guilty for not having cash.
We ordered the Tabouleh Salad for our appetizer. It was full of great lemony flavor and packed with parsley, cucumber and tomato. The homemade (I’m pretty sure it was homemade) pita bread was spot on. It was light, fluffy and toasted just enough to have a bite. For our entrée we shared the Lamb Shawarma, with a side of tahini sauce for Lindsay to dip everything in. The lamb was juicy and instead of being thinly sliced, I was please to find it served in long, thick chunks. I love lamb and Jerusalem prepares it well. It was served with over rice, but the star of the dish was the delicious onions. They were cooked down and caramelized, but still had a vinegar/pickled flavor. I could eat those things for a snack (and I did a few days later) anytime. We were stuffed from our appetizer and meal (not to mention our wonderful Salsas lunch) so we skipped on dessert (actually, on the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at the Old Europe Bakery and had a chocolate/raspberry torte with more wine and coffee).
Jerusalem Garden Café was amazing and if you’re in Asheville and in the mood for some Middle Easter fare, I’d totally recommend this joint if you like small, family-run, delicious food in a unique atmosphere. The service was good, the atmosphere enhanced the food, and the dim lighting made it romantic. It was a great evening and I’m glad Lindsay made the reservation. We’ll definitely be going back!