According to a 2013 Pew Research Center Study on American Jewish beliefs and practices, just 22% of American Jews keep kosher in their homes. I’m one of the 78% “bad Jews” who doesn’t keep kosher as my love for meat mixed with dairy and bacon is far too great. In Israel many of its citizens, both Jewish and Muslim, keep kosher or halal respectively, and therefore a majority of restaurants in the country keep kosher/halal. Towards the end of an amazing ten day Birthright trip in Israel in 2013 with some of my best friends, many of us grew tired of eating cheese and vegetables for breakfast and falafel and schawarma for lunch and dinner. We wanted something meaty and cheesy, greasy, and filled with fat, basically something all-American. It was on our final night in Israel in the ancient city of Jerusalem that we stumbled upon Iwo’s Meat Burger nearby a bar that we were drinking at before heading to the airport. Yes our whole Birthright group went ham that night before heading to the airport. Great decision at the time, bad decision later! However, the best decision of the night by far was walking into Iwo’s for one of the most unkosher experiences you can get in the Holy City.
Iwo’s Meat Burger is a premium burger joint on Hillel Street, in the Downtown Triangle neighborhood, offering a extensive array of burgers and other sandwiches. Their burger has been crowned as the best burger in Israel in a number of competitions but the restaurant is controversial as it is one of the few places in Jeruselem where burgers can be topped with cheese and/or bacon, the most unkosher yet delicious food known to mankind.
The exterior of the restaurant has a colorful awning that isn’t hard to miss along with outdoor patio seating while the inside of the restaurant aims to be American-diner themed. Plush beige and red booths line the interior of Iwo’s and a checkerboard counter top sits in the back of the place.
Especially at night and on weekends the line to order can be quite long. With nearly twenty or so of us coming to get our bacon cheeseburger fix, we literally took over the place. Iwo’s burgers are all about customization, as the customer gets to choose the burger weight along with the type of meat such as beef, lamb, or veal. One gets to choose their toppings as well which include the standard lettuce, tomato, and and pickled cucumber and onion, but also feature special toppings like goat cheese, bacon, smoked goose breast, truffle butter, and mushrooms. The final step is choosing a sauce like their chimichurry or garlic mayonnaise. Iwo’s Meatburger also has side options like fries and wings, and for those who aren’t feeling a burger the restaurant has hot dogs and sandwiches such as their chicken or roast beef sandwich.
I went all out and got a bacon cheeseburger with mushrooms, an egg, and garlic mayo. The burger was a little overcooked for my liking but the incredible toppings made up for that, along with the primal craving I had for greasy and fatty goodness. I teamed up my burger with an order of fries which were crispy, but pretty damn salty. I don’t remember what many of my friends ordered, but I can tell you that everyone stuffed their faces and devoured their burgers in mere minutes. It made for a tasty treat before heading back to the US after 10 days of fun but gruesome and tiring travel.
One of my good friends Alex thought that this burger was one of the best he had ever had, and he still places it in his top burgers of all time list. For me the burger was very good, but it doesn’t match up to some of the absolutely amazing burger places here in the US. Perhaps I’m spoiled living in Chicago now, a city chock full of some of the highest rated burger joints in the country. I’m certainly not saying Iwo’s was bad. On the contrary, it was tasty and hit the spot, but I do think our craving for a cheeseburger along with our non-sober state helped to make Iwo’s that much better. In the end Iwo’s Meatburger is a solid spot serving up great burgers with some really unique topping options that make it one of the best burger options in Israel. If you find yourself out in the winding and narrow streets of Jerusalem and are craving something cheesy, juicy, and unkosher as possible in the land of kosher, I highly recommend stopping by Iwo’s for a delicious bacon cheeseburger!
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire