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.
'middle eastern' on Serious Eats
In many ways, Cafe Nadery a gathering place inspired by and built around the Iranian heritage of the 21 people who own it. The café is a venue for readings, live music, film screenings, art exhibits, lectures, and fora. It just so happens they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The open patio seating and brunch-friendly vibe of Cafe Mogador make it a perennially popular St. Marks restaurant, but for me there's one real pull: the tagines.
Kabul Kabab doesn't nail every detail of pro kebabery, but it hits, turning deceptively simple grilled meat into a worthy night out.
Yemen Café's ambience recalls that of a cafeteria—the bare tables are dominated by families whose gigging toddlers race around the dining room, and the ice water and sweet mint tea are self-service. The casual atmosphere makes it that much easier to focus on the food here, which is soulful, delicious, and a great bargain.
Mezze Place is a Middle Eastern restaurant in Astoria with a quirky talent for vegetables, a friendly, romantic vibe, and one of the greatest chandeliers in New York. In many respects it's an archetypical neighborhood restaurant—welcoming, affordable, often quietly delicious—with some gems worth bragging about to those in farther zip codes.
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.
Zizi Limona's menu hasn't changed much since it opened, but there are a couple new additions, such as this plate of Grilled Artichoke and Cauliflower ($8), which is joined by juicy late summer tomatoes and plenty of their excellent tangy yogurt and fresh homemade tahini.
Is there anything you can't do, Taboonette? Dessert now, too? You're too kind.
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.
Chef Shai Zvibak soaks his dried chickpeas overnight, rinses them, then simmers them with baking soda "to accelerate the cooking" for five or six hours. He purées them with tahini—no olive oil—and some spices he brings over from Israel. He tops the finished hummus with warm spiced chickpeas, starchy fava beans, or spiced ground beef. Then he does it again two hours later.
His Local 92 is an East Village hummus bar with aspirations beyond a hummus bar. There's a wine and cocktail list, appetizers, entrées of schnitzel and meatballs and fish. The roomy, casually pretty interior is a far cry from most of the city's cramped hummus and falafel shops, including Zvibak's own attractive but slender Hummus Shop on the Lower East Side. But it's the hummus, indeed made every two hours so it's always fresh, that keeps me coming back.
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.
It's similar in concept to the veggie pita, but Marrakesh's Shish Kabob Pita ($7.75) is a notable meaty sandwich in its own right.
There's no shortage of pita sandwiches in Midtown, but few are as customizable as the ones at Marrakesh. There are six filling options for the DIY vegetarian pita sandwich ($6.95), and you can pick up to three of them.
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.
Don't look for the Iskender Plate ($14.50 to go, $16.95 to stay) near the other Turkish sandwiches at 7 Spices in the East Village. You won't find it there because it technically isn't a sandwich—that is, until you DIY it into one.
You can think of Sabich as breakfast falafel: fried eggplant, egg, salad, and yogurt all stuffed into pita. That pita's a big part of what makes the sandwich, and at Nish Nush in Tribeca, it's made daily. It's light and springy, but strong enough to hold all the traditional components of a sabich.
At 7 Spices, a Turkish restaurant in the East Village, the meatballs come grilled.