Karam is one of the many small, independent shops and restaurants that make Bay Ridge so fun to visit: homey and familiar—even on a first visit—its excellent food is just one more reason to kick back and stay awhile.
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A quick glance at the pubs that line Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside may have you thinking that the neighborhood is solely Irish territory. But there's some great Middle Eastern food if you know where to look.
Sitting at the window in one of the booths at Al Safa offers a framed view of the ever-evolving population of Bay Ridge. Once an enclave for Irish and Italian immigrant families, it's now home to Brooklyn's largest middle eastern community. Looking into the restaurant, you'll find Zein Safa, the amiable chef/owner of Al Safa preparing an abundance of middle eastern dishes, heavily influenced by his Lebanese roots.
Toum, a Lebanese food truck that's been making the rounds on 46th Street in Midtown, Prospect Park, Dumbo, and Tribeca, makes wraps good enough to right every sad wrap that's ever wronged you.
My favorite kind of restaurant is the neighborhood restaurant: a place right down the street that's short on frills but long on coziness, serves down-home but excellent food at fair prices, and where the quality never seems to suffer no matter how many decades old the restaurant is. Waterfalls Café is that kind of restaurant.
Does the namesake falafel hold up to the shawarma at Homemade Falafel? I think so.
Take a bite without knowing and you might guess it's lamb shoulder, subtly gamey and deeply tender with soft striations of fat. But there's a darker, more mineral quality to the meat, a funk that, come your second bite, you realize could only come from tongue. This is one of the more approachable applications of the muscle out there.
Like at Cedars Meat House a few blocks away, Homemade Falafel does a rather nice Lebanese-style shawarma ($6). It's a simple thing, and all the better for it: just some beef, sauce, a little vegetable for crunch, and pita that gets out of the way.
Cedars Meat House is a slender storefront along Astoria's 30th Avenue that's easy to miss, but if the glistening shwarma on spits don't catch your eye, a glance at the bottom drawer prices will. $3.50 for a shawarma sandwich! Not even Mamoun's can offer that.
It's always a gamble trying to adapt a successful overseas to the fickle U.S. market. Occasionally you might strike gold—think: Till Death Do Us Part's metamorphosis into All In The Family. But more often than not, you end up with Chateau Snavely or Payne desperately trying to capture the magic of Fawlty Towers. Having spent a few meals out at Almayass, the successful Middle Eastern chain of Armenian restaurants that has most recently expanded to Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, it feels more like the American version of The Office: a refreshingly unique and strong beginning that gets progressively less exciting.
Lebanese restaurants aren't rare in this city, but they aren't especially common either—a shame for New Yorkers who'd rather pig out on eggplant and yogurt than foie gras and pork belly. Lebanese cuisine is Southern Mediterranean meets Middle Eastern, and can be as conservative or as exotic as you care for. At the newly opened, surprisingly fancy Almayass in the Flatiron, both routes are open to you. Want to stick to pita, hummus, and kebabs? No problem. Curious about quail egg-topped Lebanese salumi, beet root dips, or bulgur-studded tartar? They can make that happen.
I wasn't looking for great eggplant at Wafa's in Forest Hills, but it found me, along with several other vegetable-forward wonders. And I'm glad they did.
Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget. He blogs at Ben Cooks Everything. Grilled haloume cheese. [Photos:...
Although I'd never heard anything about Al Safa in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, when I walked in I just knew that it was going to be good. Scanning the menu, I was intrigued by the Sujok Pita ($5) described as hot spiced ground beef and lamb sausage.
Wafa’s Authentic Mediterranean Food is an apt name for this tiny Forest Hills storefront. But this joint could just as well be called Wafa's Soul Food or Wafa's Home Cooking because that's exactly the type of grub you'll find...