Just got back from a trip to Jordan and Syria. Will post Syria at some point next week, but in the meantime, here's a round-up of Amman places.
Hashem: An outdoor "cafe" with the ubiquitous plastic chairs that you'll see all over the middle east. Hashem is known for its falafel. And what falafel it was! Crunchy little balls that were the best I had the entire trip. And that's saying something, given the vast quantities of falafel I consumed while I was in Jordan. Ah, and the falafel was served with something my research after the fact tells me is "fool." Fava beans, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Fantastic. This was a super cheap and super delicious stop. Local crowd, with a few tourists. This was my favorite stop in Amman, by far. Not fancy.
Habiba: Up the road from Hashem, you'll find Habiba, tucked into another alleyway. They serve multiple varieties of knafeh, which is a cheese custardy pastry, topped with something akin to shredded phylo. This was really dense and rich and I could barely finish my plate. Very local crowd.
Turtle Green: Lovely little cafe with free wi-fi on Rainbow Street. Known for their teas, but it was so hot that I opted for freshly squeezed orange juice instead. International crowd.
Books@Cafe: Listed in all the guidebooks. Where Amman's young and beautiful people hang out. It was a bit more run-down than I expected, but the sun-drenched patio was the perfect place for me to while away the time while I sipped my lemon and mint and took advantage of more free wifi. International crowd. Alcohol served.
Reem's Cafeteria. Another guidebook stalwart, helped of course by a recent piece in the New York Times. Kinda reminded me of being at the Wiener's Circle in Chicago, but without the yelling and cursing. When the people I was with wanted to have pizza for dinner (??!!), this is where I went. It's really just a little window on the street, where you pay 1 dinar and someone gives you some tasty beef--not lamb, as the New York Times says. I definitely confirmed it was beef--wrapped in a pita, along with a pita. The menu is all in Arabic, but your choices are really only "small" or "large." I asked what the other item on the menu was and they handed us something I believe is called a "kopa," or minced lamb wrapped in dough. Delicious. Very local crowd. While we were there (standing on the street, eating), many taxi drivers and police officers drove up. Some just shouting their order out the window and giving change to whoeever was on the sidewalk, willing to deliver the money to the window.
Blue Fig: Spacious large and airy restaurant, located next to huge Starbucks with drive-thru. The patio out back is quite nice and much quieter than taking one of the tables at the main entrance, which faces a very busy road. We enjoyed large flat breads, topped with smoked chicken and pickles. International crowd. Alcohol served.
Vinaigrette: At the top of the AlQasr Metropole Hotel, with lovely views all around Amman. Vinaigrette serves sushi, so we enjoyed a crunchy tuna roll, along with our cocktails. (A mjoito for my friend, and a Mexican beer for me, which is beer with lemon juice, served in a glass with a salted rim. Apparently, a Jordanian staple.) International crowd. Alcohol served.
Bistro One: Located just above the 1st circle in The Granada Hotel. Italian-ish menu, although the restaurant's menu says they're French. (Burgers available.) I was pleasantly surprised by my sea bass and vegetables. Huge portions. Extensive wine list for a restaurant in Jordan. Decor trying hard. Servers are many. All in tuxedos. Empty when we went on a Tuesday. (Or maybe it was a Monday. I forget.)
Amigos: Also located in The Granada Hotel. Good 1/2 price happy hour deals. Predominately male clientèle when we were there, along with a few couples. Dark and smoky. Pool table.
In short, I was really impressed by Amman. It's a good mix of old and new. It's a sprawling city, so not one that's easy to explore by foot, but the area around Rainbow Street and the 1st circle is quite nice and can easily be explored without a car.