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Falafel, hommos, baba, tabouli, pita, fatoush, Turkish coffee.
Hours: M-F 10AM-9PM, Sat 11AM-9PM, Sun noon-8PM
Jerusalem Garden is a downtown Ann Arbor restaurant serving Middle Eastern food. It was founded in 1987 by Rubhi Ramlawi, and is now run by his son, Ali Ramlawi.
For 27 years – until April 2015 – it was located in a small building at 307 S. Fifth Ave., where you could watch the falafel being made from the front counter, or sit for table service in the back or outside on the patio. On April 27-28, 2015 it held a soft launch in a new location around the corner at 314 E. Liberty – the former VFW Post 423 where Seva restaurant was previously located.
Over time it's become harder to get Lunch under 5 dollars here. As of Jan. 2023, the least expensive sandwiches are $8.25. However there are a few side dishes (incl. lentil soup, hummus, falafel) that still come in under than $5.
History from the Jerusalem Garden website:
Jerusalem Garden's founder Rubhi 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. The father of eight had been laid off after working as a butcher much of his life, and used his $10,000 severance pay to lease the tiny place adjoining the Ann Arbor District Library.
Using old world recipes, he and his wife started making hummus, kabobs and falafel sandwiches. Customers came quickly: downtown workers, Community High students some of whom worked for him, and professors and students from the University of Michigan. It was a place without pretense, where everyone was welcome.
"He was definitely a positive influence in a lot of people's lives and in the community too. ….Smiling all the time," said his daughter, Nan Ramlawi. He peeled garlic almost as a meditative exercise.
Born in 1934 in a village near Jerusalem, the founder and his family fled to Jordan in 1948 in the diaspora. He moved again in 1962 to the United States, seeking greater economic opportunities. His family settled in metro Detroit.
Rubhi didn't live long enough to see the fruits of Jerusalem Garden grow to its current size and impact on the community -a unique place with an awesome clientele. He died unexpectedly in 1993, leaving the restaurant as his legacy.
Today, three of the founder's children are still involved and partners in the business: Ali Ramlawi, who at 18 came in to honor his father's legacy. still makes hummus using his father's recipe and serves as manager and head of operations, Nadyia serves as an assistant manager, and Mustafa focuses on making falafel.
The essential spirit of Jerusalem Garden goes back to a big-hearted immigrant who cared about people - and wanted his family to have something to nourish themselves after he was gone. "He had a heart of gold," said Ali Ramlawi.
In the news
Jerusalem Garden hosts soft opening at new location – MLive, April 27, 2015
A sneak peek at Jerusalem Garden 2.0 – Concentrate, March 25, 2015
Vandals 'desecrate' VFW Hall cornerstone at new Jerusalem Garden restaurant – MLive, Feb. 18, 2015
Jerusalem Garden plans move to former Seva building in major expansion – MLive, March 31, 2014
Jerusalem Garden owner Ali Ramlawi shares his thoughts on a reopened Fifth Avenue – AnnArbor.com, June 19, 2012
A frugal Friday at downtown Ann Arbor's Jerusalem Garden – AnnArbor.com, July 1, 2011
Ann Arbor residents, businesses cope with shutdown of Fifth Avenue at Liberty Street – AnnArbor.com, Aug. 5, 2010
The Best of Ann Arbor: Jerusalem Garden: The seating may be cramped but the food never disappoints – Michigan Daily, April 2008
Jerusalem Garden on foursquare