I’ve been remiss in writing, and I’ve been holding out on you. Some of the restaurants I visit most end up being the ones I never get around to reviewing.
But let me assure you that I was thrilled when a Lebanese bakery opened one block from my old apartment… right after I moved away. I’d been avidly watching the renovation of the abandoned building into something beautiful – with dark wood tables and colorful walls.
Manakeesh = flatbreads with tasty stuff. Sometimes they are served flat, sometimes folded in half, and sometimes rolled. I haven’t yet figured out the pattern. But here are the ones I’ve tried so far:
- Za’tar – Their za’tar blend is heavier on the thyme than the Penzey’s version. I highly recommend asking for a side of labneh and tearing off pieces of the bread and dipping it.
- veggie – it kind of like ratatouille on a flat bread. I really want there to be one with loosely held together roasted vegetables, but it is not this one. Guaranteed to drip on your shirt at least once. Tasty, if you don’t have a pre-conceived craving.
- spinach and cheese – Is taste for 3 minutes while the cheese is gooey. And then not tasty. And then – oddly – tasty once again when it is cold and you’re eating it for breakfast.
- kishk – So one morning I was looking at the board and going, “Yeah, but what here is underappreciated that I should try?” And the owner pointed me toward this one. And, yes, it is delightful. It’s spicy and rich (and messy – I tried to eat it as street food while walking, but I quickly gave up and sat on a stoop to finish it). Not what I was expecting at all from the “cracked wheat and yogurt paste” description.
- Kafta – a fine layer of ground beef and lamb folded around a surprise pickle. Well, the pickles were a surprise to me. And they went surprisingly well with the flavor, just a mild sharp note to balance the richness of the meat.
- tawook – also a surprise pickle. Also working really well here. The chicken is incredibly tender and delightful.
Salads and Dishes
- Baba Ghanouj – tasted as if it were generously mixed with tahini.
- Fool – mixture of paste and identifiable beans, this is generously seasoned with lemon. Make sure they serve you the pita that comes with (for most of the others you have to order pita separately)
- Tabbouleh – is excellent here! Lovely fresh parsley and very summery. Well, at least it has been through summer.
- Fried dough – skip the fried dough. It has hardly any taste, and it is coated with enough tough sugar to be able to withstand being out all day
- Baklava – but a billion tasty varieties of attractive baklava. YAY!
- Seriously, everything except the fried dough is delicious.
- ma’moul – I love these! They are not so sweet, but they are stuffed (with dates, walnuts, or pistachio). This right here is a delicious breakfast.
- “power bar” – nuts held together with syrup on top of an amazing short bread. This is incredibly filling and great with tea.
- Tea! There are two paths for tea appreciation here. TWO! (three if you count iced, but I don’t.) You can have traditional tea in an elegant pot (which will burn you, if you aren’t careful) poured into small glasses (which would burn you, but of course you are careful and place your fingertips around the rim above the pour line). It has a blend of teas and mint (with a mild mint taste that complements, rather than taking over). OR you can have non-traditional tea (for some reason they always look at me funny when I say that to order it). They stock Mighty Leaf, one of my favorite brands
- coffee – they take their coffee seriously, and you can have traditional Turkish tea or a wide variety of sexy coffee beverages, but that is not my thing.
- They do smoothies. Those are only okay – they come from a mix/
And they opened up outdoor seating! I love eating outside. During Ramadan they switched to evening hours and had specials each night. I didn’t get to take advantage of it this year, but next year I am totally stopping by after work (since I frequently work until 9pm).
So what has me thinking about them? This Saturday I was walking by, and they had a sign out advertising a new manakeesh – Cream Cheese! Have I mentioned my ongoing love affair with cream cheese? So I go in thinking it’s, you know, cream cheese on a flat bread, so I order it with some za’tar. But no, it has vegetables and olives and all kinds of stuff going on. (made for me!) So I order it with vegetables, but no olives – since I don’t like olives.
…and it comes with olives. But I liked it anyway! This one came rolled up, and it wanted to dribble out the end, but it was so sinfully good. Intensely favored, mellow and creamy, and just the right amount of filling.
So this sounds like the perfect place, right? Well, there are a couple things I don’t like. For one thing, if you were looking for the land of passive aggressive notes, this is the place for you. There are about 40 numbered signs pinned up (on the soda machine, by the trash, in the bathrooms, on the cash register, etc.) with helpful hints like, “Our customers are the best because they don’t use credit cards for checks under $10.”
And… well, actually that’s the main thing I don’t like.
The owner remembers your name (and will remember that you are capable of drinking quite a lot of tea), and the staff is delightful.
And some day I am going to remember the name of that orchid drink I fell in love with over the summer and ask the owner if he’d consider carrying it.