New York City is home to countless cultural groups, which accounts for the concentration of delicious, authentic cuisine across the city. We profile 10 of NYC’s most outstanding Middle Eastern restaurants.
Eggplant Napolean Image Courtesy of Tanoreen
Restaurant, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, $$$
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Tanoreen, Brooklyn | Image Courtesy of Café Orlin
Opened in 1998 by Chef and owner Rawia Bishara, Tanoreen showcases the Middle Eastern home-cooking Rawia ate growing up, with not-so-subtle nods to more modern inspirations. A success from the outset, the restaurant is regularly frequented by locals and tourists from across the city. On the menu, the sayadiyya, or the ‘fisherman’s meal’ is a firm favorite, rice sautéed with shredded Tilapia, caramelized onion, toasted almonds and tanoreen spices, topped with the fillet of the fish of the day. The restaurant also boasts some of the most sophisticated and unique cocktails in the city. The pistachio martini (vanilla vodka, hazelnut, apple and pistachio) is a favorite, combining traditional flavors with a NYC twist.
Housed in the bohemian East Village, Café Orlin is a trendy hangout enjoyed by locals for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. The restaurant excels in putting a modern twist on traditional Middle Eastern cuisines, with the breakfasts being prime examples of just how innovative the chefs are. Amongst other excellent breakfast dishes, the Tunisian eggs, with labne cheese, Israeli salad and pita, is one of the most popular. As well as Middle Eastern fare, the café also serves a wide range of international dishes. From the spicy Mexican huevos rancheros to the continental cooked breakfasts, a dish appealing to every appetite is guaranteed.
Image Courtesy of Maoz Vegetarian | Image Courtesy of Maoz Vegetarian
Hummus Place is a popular restaurant in a central location, serving some of the best hummus outside Israel. The restaurant itself is fairly small, but its compact size and friendly atmosphere creates an intimate environment in and of itself. As well as hummus, there are a number of other tantalizing options. For starters, the za’atar on pita bread comes highly recommended, a Middle Eastern delicacy of blended herbs, sesame, and salt. As well as a number of kosher vegetarian mains, the restaurant also caters to a number of dietary requirements. For mains, the Hummus Place Platter is an ideal sharing dish, served with lashings of the house hummus and a number of warm pitas to dip into this rich, textured paste.
Housed in a central location, Maoz Vegetarian’s ethos is to be a ‘fast service restaurant serving authentic falafel and freshly made vegetarian food’. However, Maoz goes further than serving the staple Middle Eastern delicacy on the fly. As well as catering for vegetarian customers, the café also offers dishes free of gluten, egg, milk and nuts. The famous Maoz Sandwich consists of a freshly baked white or whole-wheat pita pocket filled with steaming hot falafel balls. Customers then pick the topping for their sandwich from the salad bar, which gives a nice personal touch.
Azuri Café aims to ‘sell kosher food for the price of non-kosher’ and to be as ‘generous and inexpensive’ as possible. Excelling in mainly vegetarian dishes, this kosher restaurant also serves a number of meat dishes, such as the shawarma gyro. Although it may not be your first choice, the vegetarian patty is actually a delight, arriving laden with sides, including baba ganoush, flash-fried aubergine, and toasted rice, all well-spiced. For a refreshing after-dinner palate cleanser, the Azuri Mint Tea in a variety of flavors, fresh mint, ginger, lemon, honey and herbs, comes recommended.
Beyoglu Grill is a spacious, split-level Turkish café, renowned across the city for its meze plates and its vibrant, upbeat atmosphere. Open from breakfast until late, the restaurant becomes particularly busy at lunchtime, due to the great lunch deals and the tempting selection of pastries. If visiting at quieter dinner times, be sure to sample a selection of starters, sides, and desserts, as well as mains. Amongst the wide selection of mains, the karides guvec, a jumbo shrimp casserole baked with mushrooms, peppers, plum tomatoes and kashkaval cheese, comes highly recommended. Be sure to wash down the gluttonous meal with an amber-colored Turkish tea.
Known locally as ‘Gazala’s’, Gazala’s Place is the brainchild of Gazala Halabi, who aims to ‘celebrate her culinary heritage as an Israeli Druze’ through the creation of authentic and tasty dishes. Visit Gazala’s for hot and cold mezes, pies, wraps, kebabs, and feta salads. The place is also renowned for its weekend brunch, where customers can sample the Druze Breakfast, consisting of mohamar, mankosha (zatar) and meat pies, served with a hard-boiled egg, hummus and tahini. The dish is ideal for those who are tired of the usual cooked breakfasts. For dinner, the lamb hummus comes recommended, hummus topped with chopped lamb, sautéed with pine nuts, served with rice and salad.
Self-described as ‘New York’s premier contemporary Lebanese restaurant’, Ilili Restaurant offers unique and traditional Lebanese-inspired Levantine dishes. Between 4pm and 7:30pm on weekdays, Ilili’s happy hour sees the place come alive. As well as cheap bites, such as the Beirut taco and the beef shawarma, cocktails are also on offer, including the Phoenician lemonade, with citrus vodka, orange liqueur, mint, lemon and orange water. The prices are very competitive for the area and the food is well known, so avoid busy times.
First opening its doors in 1971, Mamoun’s Falafel now has numerous locations across New York. The simple ground-chickpea delicacy of falafel takes center-stage at the outlets, which aim to be New York’s best falafel restaurants. Everything served is made from scratch using only the freshest natural ingredients, the finest imported spices, and Mamoun’s signature recipes. As well as the famous falafel, the restaurant also offers tasty shawarmas, and a selection of chicken, shish and kofta kebabs. The vibrancy of the restaurant is evident as soon as you cross the threshold, with scores of artists and musicians frequenting the popular restaurant, housed in the bohemian Greenwich Village.
Taïm is a popular falafel and smoothie bar in the heart of New York, which aims to cook Middle Eastern dishes with love, using traditional methods, but with a modern twist. The bar was set up in 2005 by Chef Einat Admony and her husband Stefan Nafziger. Homesick for their favourite street food of Tel Aviv, they decided to open their own falafel shop. The freshness and quality of the ingredients takes center stage, followed by Taïm’s passion for traditional falafel flavors. Whilst classed as ‘fast food’, the nutritious produce is anything but, giving health-conscious New Yorkers their daily fix of Middle Eastern delicacies. For a spicier flavor, the harissa balls have a strong kick.