Yafa Grills: A Taste of Jerusalem


Situated on St. Johns Bluff Road and Central Parkway is Yafa Grills, a small Palestinian restaurant it’s in a small, beige, stand-alone building with a horizontal green stripe around the building and an awning of the same color.

We ordered takeout and were pleasantly surprised when they called to confirm our order. They did end up forgetting one item, but in all fairness, we had a pretty big order When we pulled up to the drive-through window we looked through it to see white tiled wall, beyond which through an aluminum doorway was a pale green room containing a metal food prep table with rotating cylinders of shawarma.

The food came in the classic white styrofoam boxes, and as the boxes entered the car, the rich smell emulating from them filled it instantly. The smell of cumin was especially prevalent, earthy and savory, like sunbaked terracotta on a hot summer day.

The first box contained two kibbeh, small fried oblong balls of crispy bulgur wheat stuffed with a complex, savoury filling of ground beef and toasted pine nuts seasoned with cumin and cinnamon, and two green sauces.

One of the sauces was an opaque, pale green with a rich creamy texture and deep garlicky flavor. However, the second sauce, called zhug, absolutely made the meal. It was dark green in color and in flavor it was the absolute essence of green. It had a flavor as deep and rich as the history and culture of the region it comes from. It seeped into everything it touched, accentuating the native flavor of the food by adding a flavor of its own.

The other dishes we ordered were also terrific, all of the meat was tender and well seasoned, the falafel perfectly cooked, and beautiful light green on the inside, but the zhug was incredible, the secret sauce if you will.

If this food sounds good to you, but the restaurant location is too far out of your way, on University Boulevard South, parallel to Barnhill Road,  there’s another outstanding Mediterranean restaurant called Karam’s.