Philadelphia may be far from the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean authentic Middle Eastern food is nowhere to be found. Falafel, shawarma, kabobs and grape leaves are just a few of the delicacies you can look forward to eating at the following restaurants.
603 S 4th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Open seven days a week, Alyan’s has been serving Middle Eastern food for more than 30 years and continues to keep its customers happy. Right off of South Street, this BYOB restaurant offers take out or dine in (it even offers catering!). The prices are great and the quality of food is even better. In fact, Alyan’s has some of the best kibi and falafel in town.
616 S 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
This BYOB restaurant is located in Queen Village and is complete with Middle Eastern décor and delicious food. If you’re undecided, go with the sampler platter (“maza”). For $30 a person, you’ll leave with a better sense of Middle Eastern cuisine after trying a variety of platters, like baba ghannouj, grape leaves, moussaka and shawarma. This place has something for everyone (vegetarians included) and something for every hunger level.
4500 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19139
Saad is from Lebanon and started in the restaurant business years ago with a food truck before opening Saad’s Halal Restaurant in University City. Halal refers to food that is permitted under Islamic Law and the restaurant has unusual hours, as it closes for Friday prayers and for the month of Ramadan. One of its more popular dishes is the chicken maroosh, a sandwich made with pickles, tomatoes, parsley, grilled chicken, sautéed onions and garlic sauce. Saad’s Halal also has an American menu including an award-winning Philly cheesesteak. Leave your phone in the car, as this restaurant has a strict no-cell phone policy. After dining at Saad’s Halal, hop across the street to Manakeesh Café Bakery for some Lebanese baked goods.
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This small Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurant is found in Washington Square West. Sahara Grill serves authentic falafel, kabobs, shawarma and other Middle Eastern favorites. Sandwiches are served on a pita, but for a real treat, try it “Lebanese style” for only 50 cents more (made with tomato, fries, pickles and garlic). Plenty of kabob options are available, including the lamb shish kabob and kafta kabob.
237 St. James Place
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Zahav is located on the grounds of the Society Hill Towers and overlooks Dock Street. It has been a favorite among those seeking authentic Israeli food since it opened in 2008. To prove its authenticity, Chef Solomonov was born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh before heading back to Israel at age 19 where his culinary and pastry skills were developed. While here, you’ll want to try Zahav’s famous laffa bread and order a number of small plates to sample some of Israel’s best cuisine. Zahav’s interior is designed to resemble Jerusalem’s hidden courtyards and its open kitchen adds to an atmosphere that is truly remarkable.
Kelly Neilson is a freelance writer living and working in Philadelphia. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.