This Under-the-Radar Yemeni Restaurant Serves Up Exciting Middle Eastern Food in Brooklyn

Yemeni Food
Yemeni Food | © Yasmin Faruki / Culture Trip
Salma Abdelnour

Yemen is a spectacularly beautiful country with stunning plant life and an ancient cultural heritage, but those images rarely make it into the international media. Most of what foreigners know of Yemen is as a war-torn, famine-ridden nation. At the 30-year-old Yemen Café in Brooklyn, as you tear off warm pieces of puffy, coal oven bread, you can imagine yourself traveling around the country in more peaceful days, and visiting the home of generous locals who will sit you down and feed you like family.

Loved by over 40s

But first you’ll have to escape the noise of Brooklyn’s busy streets. The stairs leading up to the Downtown Brooklyn branch of Yemen Café on Atlantic Avenue (there’s another location in Bay Ridge) instantly pull you out of the bustle and drop you into a relaxed café in the Middle East, where diners speak Arabic interspersed with English, French, and whatever the day’s mix of guests brings in. Although the tourism posters on the walls offer up a few visual aids for non-Yemenis—and for anyone whose image of Yemen consists mainly of that notorious Friends episode—it’s the revolving images of the Yemeni countryside and beaches on the flat-screen TV that make the strongest bid for attention. Until your food arrives.

Moments after you sit down, a platter of freshly baked Yemeni bread lands on your table along with a bowl of marag, an intense lamb-based soup flavored with sweet roasted onions. You can beg off the marag if you’re not a meat-eater, but otherwise don’t miss it.

- embed -

After that, take your time to absorb the menu: Yemeni cuisine is mostly undiscovered in the U.S., and what you’ll find at Yemen Café isn’t just the usual Levantine-influenced repertoire—hummus, tabbouleh, kebabs—of many Middle Eastern restaurants stateside. Eating at Yemen Café is a chance to explore dishes rarely found elsewhere, and to sample a distinct cuisine that also has African and Asian influences. So choose wisely, and go overboard if you have the appetite and budget. You can always take leftovers home and make another meal or two out of them.

Ordering one or two of the spice-redolent lamb or chicken stews, staples of Yemeni cuisine, is a must for carnivores: The lamb fatah is a delicious bowl of minced lamb with sautéed onions, tomatoes and shreds of Yemeni bread in a lamb broth; the chicken or lamb zorbian layers juicy meat on perfectly cooked basmati rice.

- embed -

For vegetarians, the unimaginatively named “vegetarian dish” is so much better than it sounds. It brings together the elements of a flavorful Yemeni stew into one extraordinary meatless mix of roasted, caramelized potatoes, okra, carrots and onions on basmati rice.

Dip your bread, or a forkful of nearly any dish you order, into the sahawek, a chunky Yemeni hot sauce of tomatoes and chili pepper, which waiters place on every table. Non-carnivores can also make a lunch or dinner out of appetizers like foul, a creamy side of mashed fava beans with tomatoes and onions.

For anyone who craves more familiar Middle Eastern options like hummus, babaghanoush or shakshoukah (eggs scrambled with onions, parsley and tomatoes), those dishes are on the menu too and can pad out the feast if you’re with a group.

Dessert? You’ll find one of the sweetest endings, the fatah with honey, hiding in the appetizer section: It’s that fabulous homebaked Yemeni bread you started with, but now it’s chopped up, cooked with Yemeni butter and honey, and ladled into a bowl with a creamy white topping called kishta, a staple of Middle Eastern desserts.

Have a few luxurious spoonfuls of that (it’s too rich for much more), and start daydreaming about a trip to Yemen someday, or another visit to this Brooklyn oasis ASAP.

- embed -
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.