Atlantic Avenue’s Arab community is one of the oldest in the United States. From the first Lebanese immigrants who made their home on the thoroughfare in the late 19th century, to more recent arrivals from Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen, Downtown Brooklyn’s Arab-American community has made an indelible impact on the culture, and eating habits, of the neighborhood.
And while the Avenue has evolved over the years, there are still plenty of Middle Eastern destinations where you can indulge your hankering for grilled meats, a cup of tea, and good conversation. So If you don’t know the difference between hummus and halloumi, between kibbeh and kunefah, or between shisha and shish tawook, take a trip to Atlantic Avenue. Inshallah, you’ll be glad you did. Here are six souks to hit up on your next trip.
Sahadi’s (Cobble Hill)
What can be said about Sahadi’s that hasn’t been said already? Brooklyn residents, as well as The New York Times, have been singing the grocer’s praises since they opened in 1938. Still run by members of the original clan, Sahadi’s was a foodie’s paradise before there were foodies. With assorted nuts and dried fruits, delectable meats and cheeses, imported olive oils, and Lebanese essentials like lebneh (a strained yogurt) and kibbeh (minced lamb meat encased in baked bulgur wheat), you’re bound to find something that will keep you coming back for more.
Photo courtesy of Reggie M. via Yelp.
Oriental Pastry and Grocery | Eva W. via Foursquare
Oriental Pastry and Grocery (Cobble Hill)
Oriental Pastry and Grocery not only has cookware, but you can also get the essential herbs and spices you need to make an approximation of your Atlantic Avenue favorites at home.
Damascus goodies | Lara via Foursquare
Damascus Bread and Pastry Shop (Brooklyn Heights)
Come for the pita bread, stay for the baklava. With pastries in seemingly endless varieties, it can be easy to miss the more savory items on the menu. With decadent lamb dishes, traditional stuffed zucchini, and some of the smokiest baba ganoush, smoothest hummus, and most delicious falafel around, it’s not to be missed.
Chicken schwarma sandwich | Sara G. via Yelp
Fatoosh Pitza & BBQ (Brooklyn Heights)
Don’t let the sign “Pizza and BBQ” fool you. This neighborhood establishment doesn’t specialize in Southern food, or Southern Italian for that matter. It’s pure Middle Eastern. With super-salads and ginormous gyros, lovers of classic Mediterranean fare are in for a treat. Word to the wise: the chicken pizza (with some red pepper-based muhammarah and hummus) is an Old World treat.
Yemen Cafe via Facebook
Yemen Cafe (Cobble Hill)
M is for maraq, a traditional lamb broth soup. M is also for “mmmm… maraq,” which is what you’ll be saying after you slurp down this Yemeni staple. What else should you indulge in? Try lamb any number of ways: haneeth, a young lamb cooked in the Yemeni version of a tandoor oven; as a sauce over saltah, Yemen’s national dish; or minced in a glaba. If you’re feeling timid, don’t hesitate to go for a more familiar kebab or good old-fashioned lamb chop.
Bedouin Tent | Brittany A. via Foursquare
Bedouin Tent (Boerum Hill)
If you’re looking for some great falafel, stop by this Atlantic Avenue fixture for lunch, dinner, or late night snacking. In addition to one of the city’s best falafels, they have some truly excellent pizzas, and the full array of standard Middle Eastern fare.