Middle eastern food downtown chicago

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Our Story

From our family to yours, Al Bawadi Grill is the premier Chicago area restaurant providing guests with the complete culinary experience when it comes to enjoying traditional middle eastern and Palestinian cuisine.  In the Middle Eastern culture, our foods consists of a vast array of hot and cold dishes, served in small size portions to allow the patron to sample and share a sizeable variety of items.

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OUR Menu


Our menu has it all; we try and satisfy all your cravings with all our delectable options:
sandwiches, grilled skewers, vegetarian dishes, drinks, and desserts. Our tangy salad dressings, juicy grilled kebabs, crunchy sandwich wraps, and our savory desserts are just a few examples of how we try to give you the full authentic Middle Eastern cuisine experience.

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About Us

Al Bawadii Grill opened its first location in 2008 in Bridgeview, IL also known as Little Palestine. Everything including the restaurant’s atmosphere to your server’s attire down to each bite you take brings you closer to the traditional Middle Eastern and Palestinian cuisine. Al Bawadi serves all appetites: breakfast, dinners, desserts, meat lovers, and vegetarians. We make sure that each plate that is brought to your table is made to perfection.

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KENAFA
The knafeh is a must try when coming to Al Bawadi grill. This popular Middle Eastern dessert is made of a layer of crushed phyllo dough topped with cheese and cooked on a low flame. Before serving, it is soaked with a sweet sugar syrup and topped with crushed pistachios.
It doesn’t stop there, per your request, Al Bawadi can come out to your events and make knafeh on the spot for you. Nothing beats a fresh warm plate of knafeh straight off the flame. You’ll have your family and friends savoring every bite.

Sours: https://www.albawadigrill.com/

All of our meals will leave you saying OMG!

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(Eat, Live, Love)

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About Us

Olive Mediterranean Grill- Serving up Chicago’s favorite Mediterranean tastes and flavors that happen to be healthy- since 2010! Fresh baked pita, zesty meats, hummus and baba ghanoush that will show up in your dreams. All of our meals will leave you saying O-M-G! Place your order, and bite into your falafel fantasy today! Eat, Live, Love - Olive Mediterranean Grill!

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A Warm, Charming Atmosphere

Catering

Allow us to make your next special event extra special. We cater for all sized functions, ideal for your larger functions or an intimate gathering, our team can curate a menu to suit your taste.

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Our Guestbook

People Say About Us!

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“I was so happy to find Olive Mediterranean restaurant on North Ave. During the COVID-19 pandemic, It was very assuring to see the staff CONSISTENTLY change their vinyl protective gloves REPEATEDLY while serving the customers food. On top of that the food is hot and delicious. Excellent!!”

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“Great food, but portion size leaves something to be desired. See picture for what I got. Everything was fairly warm, and delicious. Chicken kabob was flavorful and tender. Would have liked to have receive hummus by default vs. paying extra, but no biggie. Falafels were good, should have ordered more! Basmati rice was nice and flavorful.”

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“OMG! I honestly didn't want to come here at first. I mean there's already a lot of these fast food chipotle/subway like Mediterranean joints around town, but I'm glad my wife convinced me to try this place out. OMG offers a plate where you can choose what kind of meat you want and then three sides. I chose hummus,”

Sours: http://eatomg.com/
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Where to Eat Middle Eastern Food in Chicago

Galit/Sandy Noto

From Chicago to Bridgeview, locals can find plenty of wonderful food

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| Galit/Sandy Noto

The Middle East is a diverse region, and Chicago’s Middle Eastern food scene is no different. From Lebanese to Turkish to Persian, there are threads that tie the city’s restaurants together–hummus, kebab, stone ovens–but variations in spices, signature dishes, influence, and atmosphere. Whether you’re craving a quick shawarma wrap or an elegant sit down dinner, one of these 18 restaurants is sure to satisfy.

As of January 23, Chicago restaurants are permitted to serve customers indoors with a 25 percent maximum capacity per room. At the same time, despite winter weather, a number of Chicago restaurants continue to offer outdoor seating. Regardless, the state requires reservations for indoor and outdoor dining. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

What started as a grocery is now also a cafe in suburban Mount Prospect that serves simit, lahmajoon, menemen, borek, and more. Dine on heaping portions amid shelves of Turkish ingredients and baked goods to-go. It’s a bit of a trek, but worth a stop if you’re headed to or from O’Hare International Airport.

This Lebanese restaurant has one of the more extensive menus on the list, including regional specialities like sfiha–a flatbread with a spiced minced meat topping–and fatteh–chickpeas over toasted pita bread with yogurt, tahini, garlic, sumac, and melted butter. All of the mezzes are excellent, but the baba ghanoush is especially good, with the level of smokiness you find in Beirut. That’s no surprise, as the restaurant originally opened in Raouche, Beirut in 1935. Though the family immigrated to Chicago, they still source spices from Turkey and make their own zaatar, which is fresh and tangy and should be added to every order.

Baghdad Bakery on Devon Avenue mostly caters to restaurants, but if you go in the morning you can find fresh, warm, pillowy samoon — Iraqi bread baked in a stone oven. Buy this by the bag, along with cheese and spinach pies, flatbread with meat or zaatar, and kahi–phyllo pastry best eaten with honey and popular in Iraqi cafes for breakfast.

Andersonville is spoiled for choice when it comes to Middle Eastern restaurants, and Fiya’s wide-ranging menu featuring “soul food from the Levant” had earned it numerous local fans. Customers can expect dishes and ingredients from a swath of countries including Israel, Tunisia, Palestine, Iran, and Syria. Hits include a Moroccan fish (cilantro oil, pita) grilled in Fiya’s wood-burning oven and Georgian khachapuri with lamb sausage (pickled onion, parsely-cilantro, tahina). Most items travel well for delivery and carryout.

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Come for the grocery, stay for the grill. This shop has supplied Chicago’s home cooks with Middle Eastern, Turkish, and Persian ingredients for almost 40 years. You’ll find spices, olives and cheese sourced from abroad, as well as fresh pita, pies, baklava, and other baked goods made on-site. Grab a shawarma wrap to-go.

Taste of Lebanon in Andersonville serves some of the best falafel and lentil soup outside of the Middle East. The falafel is flavorful and light, the hummus is extra creamy, the tabouleh is fresh, and the affordable price and consistently friendly staff make up for the fact that it’s cash only. Most items travel well.

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Yemeni food is different from other Middle Eastern cuisines, drawing on Ottoman stews and Indian spices while maintaining its own distinct dishes. Sheeba’s cooks were born in Yemen and make a point of bringing authentic flavors and cooking methods to Chicago, without any shortcuts. Go for the hearty, bubbling stews served in heavy clay bowls like saltah, a mix of root vegetables and meat–Yemen’s national dish. Or Mandi, a Yemeni-style rice, meat and spice dish. It all goes well with Mulawah, the outstanding tandoor bread that’s something like a tortilla meets paratha.

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At this casual Persian spot in Albany Park, you order at the counter and wait for steaming plates of food to be brought to the table. The menu is large, as are the portions (plus all lunch and late night meals come with hummus and salad), so it’s great for sharing or taking some to-go. While they serve a variety of Persian dishes, the juicy kebabs and biryani are the highlight. They even have a 10 p.m. to midnight late night menu, which you can also order for delivery. A great addition to any party.

This grocery store carries Middle Eastern and Indian cooking supplies. It’s a storefront for a massive wholesale operation that provides pita and other baked goods to restaurants and stores across Chicago. There’s also a Middle Eastern bakery with cakes and an astonishing array of baklava. Order via third parties on the bakery’s website for delivery.

Ward Bakery [Official Photo]

This family-run Persian eatery opened in 1977. It’s since tripled in size and serves fabulous kebab, as the name suggests, but more importantly dishes up Persian classics like fesenjan, a pomegranate and walnut stew; adass polo, rice with lentils, raisins, caramelized onions, saffron, and barbeerris; and tadig–Iran’s crunchy rice specialty. Spices are imported from Iran and the recipes are family secrets. The menu is large, so come with friends to sit among the soft lighting and pretty Persian tiles depicting Sufi tales.

Chicagoans might not have been familiar with Kurdish food when The Gundis opened in Lakeview 2017, but owners Mehmet Besir Duzgun and Mehmet Besir Yavuz have done their part to change that. The Gundis serves food from the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran in a communal style and bright, airy space. Kurdish food shares similarities with other Middle Eastern regions–hummus, baba ganoush, kebab–but is a bit spicier and with more citrus and seafood. A Mediterranean sea bass in a tomato caper sauce is a highlight, as is the mountain salad with apricots and walnuts and the adana kebab, a lamb specialty from southeast Turkey. The Gundis also serves a great Kurdish breakfast, a feast for two that includes cheeses, jams, honey, olives, tomatoes, fried cheese rolls, eggs, and bottomless Kurdish tea.

Galit, owned by Andrés Clavero and James Beard Award-winning chef Zachary Engel, feels like stepping into a seaside spot in the Middle East. Turquoise tiles, an open hearth, and an eight-foot grill greet guests, who dine on mezze and fragrant cocktails in a light-filled space. There are plenty of veggies here, from coal-roasted carrots and beets to trumpet mushroom hummus, a selection of pickles, and kale tabouli. But don’t fear, the Iraqi Kubbeh Halab features saffron-crusted lamb with golden raisins and almonds, and a steak with parsnips, Brussels sprouts and grape molasses puts meat lovers at home.

This family-owned Lebanese restaurant opened in 2018 and has built a loyal following over the last two years for its juicy kebabs and shawarma sandwiches. The lentil soup and hummus are classics, and everything comes with freshly baked pita. Don’t skip dessert; the baklava is crispy and sweet, never soggy. There’s a large patio with heaters, and the restaurant is BYOB with a $15 corkage fee. 

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This tiny counter spot run by a Palestinian family on Armitage serves some of Chicago’s best falafel, along with hummus, kebab, wraps, and rice inside Plaza Food Mart. Head to the back of the convenience store and get in line–the wait is well worth it, or you can call ahead. The spinach pies and lentil soup are perfect for nibbling while your order is prepared, or to snack on on the way home. Yaba’s is carry-out and delivery only.

Sours: https://chicago.eater.com/maps/best-middle-eastern-restaurants-food-drink-chicago
EPIC EID FEAST in Oman!!! Middle Eastern Traditional Shuwa Will Change Your Life!!!

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red wine braised beef cheeks
Interior photo of the main dining room and the tress growing inside

About Aba

Aba is a Mediterranean restaurant originating from Chicago’s historic Fulton Market District. Aba, meaning father in Hebrew, incorporates Chef CJ Jacobson's lighter style of cooking with influences from the Mediterranean, including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece. The bar program, crafted by Liz Pearce, showcases rare Mediterranean-inspired wines and spirits.

Muhammara spread plated on tourquise plate

"Best New Restaurant" – Chicago Tribune, Reader’s Choice Dining Awards

Green Chile Bramble Cocktail
Sours: https://www.abarestaurants.com/

Food chicago eastern middle downtown

Mixed grill at Al Bawadi Grill

Follow along throughout August as we share a new dish each weekday.

Mixed grill at Al Bawadi Grill

This colorful restaurant, open since 2008, is as welcoming as they come; servers seem positively thrilled to provide explanations and recommendations for the vast menu. The easy option, a sort of Middle Eastern 101, is the signature mixed grill. It includes three skewers, one each of lamb, kufta (mix of ground beef and lamb) and chicken, along with a few strips of shawarma, grilled tomato and rice. As if that weren’t enough, it includes a starter plate of hummus. And because the restaurant is alcohol-free (no BYO, either), you won’t spend a great deal of money on your visit. $19.99. 7216 W. 87th St., Bridgeview, 708-599-1999; albawadigrill.com

Date cake at Ema pays tribute to the sweet dried fruit.

The sticky date cake at Ema is a love letter to the medjool date, one of the staple sweet foods of the Middle East. The fruit, with it’s shiny, crinkled skin and ultra-sweet, pastelike interior is made into a luscious cake that retains all of its caramel notes and gentle fruit flavors. The cake is coated in a sumac whiskey caramel that adds a touch of bitterness and acidity, and each square has a lovely crust of turbinado sugar on top, which adds a slight crunch to each bite. To temper and cool the otherwise warm and sticky cake, a generous dollop of whipped cream sits aside the square of cake in a pool of caramel sauce. $9.95. 74 W. Illinois St., 312-527-5586, emachicago.com

Adana kebab is served sandwiched between sheets of flatbread, here with the top piece pulled away to show the lamb skewers.

The most important ingredients served up at Istanbul Grill are warmth and welcome. OK, kinda corny, but hospitality should always be like this. You can’t sit down to wait for your to-go order without someone insisting on bringing you a cup of tea. At lunch one visit, I politely refused tea four times, so they brought free dessert instead. The chef calls over from the grill to make sure you liked everything. And you do. A recent weekend lunch started with a gratis yogurt-and-carrot dip, lovely with the crackle-crusted bread. My adana kebab— chopped lamb patted by hand into patties and carefully formed onto long flat skewers, then grilled — was a generous dish, served with flatbread, rice and salad. Kebabs of chopped meat, instead of ground, offer a much better texture, and these were tender with a bit of heat from chile flakes. A cup of tea showed up, unbidden. And for dessert, a creamy custard glazed with sweet-bitter caramel. All in all, Cafe Istanbul is more like eating at someone’s home than a neighborhood joint. $15. 3037 N. Clark St., 773-698-6995, myistanbulgrill.com

Orchid's Favorite, grilled chicken drumsticks, at Cafe Orchid, served with yogurt and chile sauces.

I love the baba ganoush, deeply smoky and unfailingly creamy, at Cafe Orchid, but for me a meal here isn’t complete without the Orchid’s Favorite. Butterflied chicken drumsticks are marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, onion, garlic and paprika, then grilled. The meat is tender, with a slight tang from that lemon, and carries the char in spots from the grill. Served bone-in, for easy eating with your hands (which is part of the fun of the dish), the drumsticks are served on a generous bed of steamed rice or bulgur (studded with chickpeas throughout) and a simply dressed salad of romaine, red onions and tomatoes. It’s a heaping meal (five pieces of chicken my last visit), and unless you share (no way), or have a bear’s appetite, you’ll have extras to gnaw on later straight from the fridge. $13.95. 1746 W. Addison St., 773-327-3808, cafeorchid.com

The the fruit-forward Not Mad, Just Impressed cocktail at Aba is flavored with a tahini-honey blend.

This California-influenced Middle Eastern restaurant has a decidedly nontraditional beverage program, thanks in large part to cocktail maven Liz Pearce, whose offerings include a Mediterranean Mule made with herb-infused vodka, pistachio and Galliano. When challenged to create a whiskey cocktail that would complement Middle Eastern flavors, Pearce came up with the fruit-forward Not Mad, Just Impressed ($13), a play on a Ron Burgundy line. It starts with 12-year-old scotch and Amaro Montenegro, softened by tangerine, lemon and a bit of tahini, or sesame paste. “Tahini is tricky, to say the least,” Pearce said. “It can come across as too gummy or grainy. I blended tahini into honey syrup with a bit of turmeric; it blends naturally with the tangerine, and gives a savory backbone to the scotch.” The finished product is fruity and summery; Pearce jokingly calls it “a Baby’s first scotch cocktail.” A float of bitters at the end adds a visual effect similar to a Tequila Sunrise. 302 N. Green St., abarestaurantchicago.com

Grilled halloumi cheese with sugar snap peas, peaches and burnt chile vinaigrette at Avec.

In Chicago, you may know halloumi best when it’s set on fire as saganaki. The hard, salty cheese, though, traces its origins back to ancient Cyprus. Now found across the Middle East, often fried or grilled, it’s the latter prep you’ll find at Avec — charred nuggets in a farmers market bounty from chef Perry Hendrix. Hot briny bites of the goat and sheep’s milk cheese stud a bed of fresh herbs, sweet peaches and crisp slices of sugar snap peas. Tossed in a burnt chile vinaigrette, the Mediterranean-meets-Midwest dish changes seasonally. Currently it’s available lunch and dinner, but not Sunday brunch. Make your reservations before the end of summer and the voice inside your head will happily whisper, “Opa!” $14. 615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002, avecrestaurant.com

The Nile in Hyde Park serves kataiff doused in syrup.

When I visited The Nile in Hyde Park, I intended to get knafeh, an Arab dessert made of crunchy vermicelli noodles and layered with gooey cheese. But because the restaurant was sold out, they suggested something else instead — the kataiff (sometimes spelled qatayef or katayef). What looks like an empanada or a pancake folded in half is made with semolina flour and orange blossom water, which gives it a light fragrance that comes through, even though the dish is doused in simple syrup. Inside, the kataiff is filled with a sweet cheese that delivers the same warm and gooey texture you’ll find in knafeh. Traditionally, the dish is served with nuts, but owner and executive chef Rasha Moughrabi decided to leave them off so that people with nut allergies can enjoy the dish. The dessert and brunch item is finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar and a side of sliced strawberries, which offer some tartness to the otherwise sweet and creamy dish. $9.50. 1162 E. 55th St., 773-324-9499, nilehydepark.com

Artichoke and feta pie at Middle East Bakery in Andersonville.

Everyone, at this point, knows the genius of the spinach pie. (Bonus points for the spinach and feta pie.) But through its more than 30 years slinging food in Andersonville, Middle East Bakery & Grocery has never been content to stop with spinach pies. Amid its 15 or so offerings are a lamb and potato pie. Olive, parsley and cheese. Spinach and onion. And the showstopper: artichoke and cheese. The artichokes are plump and flavorful, accented with bright lemon juice. Feta adds welcome saltiness and texture. The secret weapon, though, is the fresh dough housing the entire arrangement, which features a nice crunch at the edges. All Middle East Bakery pies are baked daily, usually emerging from the oven at about noon. That’s when they’re at their peak, but 10 minutes at 325 degrees in the toaster at home will also do the trick. $2.25. 1512 W. Foster Ave., 773-561-2224, middleeastbakeryandgrocery.com

Baklava by LaShuk Street Food at Politan Row food hall in Fulton Market.

You may know LaShuk for its hummus, possibly from the Wicker Park Farmers Market where chef Yosi Alhadif got his start. Now at Politan Row, the Fulton Market food hall in the McDonald’s HQ building, Alhadif with wife Aviva have found a new home away from home. The couple met in Israel, but she went to school in Michigan and he graduated from the French Pastry School in Chicago. Yosi apprenticed at not only Kaufman’s Bagel & Delicatessen in Skokie, but also the James Beard Award-winning Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia. It’s no wonder the pita puffs show exceptional skill, as well as his delicate baklava with tender layers of filo dough, barely sweetened with a honeyed syrup, gilded with crisp chopped pistachios and walnuts. $6. 111 N. Aberdeen St., 224-554-9791, chicago.politanrow.com/lashukstreetfood

Kurdish coffee at Gundis Kurdish Kitchen.

Turkish and Kurdish versions of different food and drink typically share many similarities, but key distinctions differentiate the two cuisines. Take coffee. The Turkish version, featured Monday, combines grounds with water, then gets a single good stir before it’s roasted in a rakweh (the traditional long-handled coffee pot), yielding an intense, tangy flavor. The Kurdish counterpart, meanwhile, is made with tiny dried fruits from terebinth, a plant species from the same genus as pistachios. The terebinth fruits are ground just like coffee beans, then are also brewed in a rakweh and served in a small cup. The Kurdish version, however, adds milk or cream with the grounds, and the mixture gets stirred continuously while brewing. The final beverage is thicker and sweeter (and decaf!) — much like a hot chocolate, only with strong pistachiolike notes instead. The biggest difference, though? Kurdish coffee is virtually impossible to find in the U.S. In Chicago, the Gundis Kurdish Kitchen claims itself to be the only place serving the beverage here — a pretty believable claim given that the owners travel quarterly to Turkey just so they can bring back suitcases filled with dried terebinth. The chance to share the unique drink — and how popular it’s been — makes the process worth it, manager Denisse Gonzalez says, but it’s quite a task. “We claim it all, obviously, but any time you’re loading up suitcases with a ton of one thing like that, it feels a little bit like smuggling,” she said and laughed. The restaurant, as well as its converted customers, are eager for a distributor to reach the States. $4.95. 2909 N. Clark St., 773-904-8120.

Turkish coffee at Four Letter Word.

Turkish coffeehouse Four Letter Word has two locations: one on Diversey Avenue in Chicago, and another — its flagship — in Istanbul, Turkey. Historically speaking, coffeehouses have long been part of Turkish culture, given that Turkish coffee is traditionally served as a patient, sit-down ritual. The ceremony isn’t quite as elaborate at Four Letter Word, but the prep and product are. The small vessel of coffee packs potent flavor. The grinds come in the coffee, where they’re combined with sugar, given a single good stir, then left to brew over heat. The grinds sink to the bottom while the liquid rises, and a soft froth forms across the top. The remaining heterogeneous beverage is sweet, tangy and rich with bean flavor — making for a rich enough cup of coffee that you might wind up staying awhile anyway. Turkish coffee, available in-store only, $6. 3022 W. Diversey Ave., 773-360-8932.

Spicy spinach pie at Alwatan Bakery.

Walk into Alwatan Bakery in suburban Bridgeview, and it’s not hard to feel happily overwhelmed by the number of baked goods. To the left, watch as pita after pita tumble off the large conveyor-belt machine. Straight ahead, you’ll can spy a large oven where larger loaves are continuously pulled out. The glass case in front of you is stuffed with all manner of enticing things, from intricately decorated desserts, plump stuffed pies and numerous varieties of mana’eesh, which are flatbreads often topped with spice mixes. Fortunately, there’s no wrong way to shop here. I left with a with a mana’eesh sprinkled with aromatic za’atar spice blend and a couple of pies. I was especially taken with the one stuffed with a spicy spinach mixture. $2. 7279 W. 87th St., Bridgeview, 708-907-5681

Wicker Park's Cafe Istanbul is serving up delicious Turkish food like grilled calamari.

A dish common to Turkish restaurants is octopus, served simply with a wedge of lemon or as a salad. At Cafe Istanbul, another cephalopod steps in. Instead of grilled octopus, grilled squid comes on a bed of greens with sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, onion and capers, with a side of salsa verde. The dish is bright and light, with a slight smoke and char finish from the wood-grilled squid. The avocado adds a creamy note while the capers add a salty zing. Cherry tomatoes contributed sweetness while the salsa verde amped up the garlic and spice. $10. 2014 W. Division St., 773-661-9487, mycafeistanbul.com

Oozi breakfast at Oozi Corner restaurant in Bridgeview, southwest of Chicago.

Oozi Corner opened quietly five months ago in Bridgeview, the village southwest of Chicago that’s home to a diverse community including Middle Eastern immigrants. The modern Mediterranean restaurant, inspired by ancient Syrian, Lebanese and Turkish cuisines, is named for oozi (also spelled oozie), savory pies with puff pastry filled with lamb, green peas, nuts and rice. But I wanted breakfast, the signature Oozi breakfast, served “zaman style” so says the menu. Zaman means “time” in Turkish and that’s what you’ll need with the lavish spread that starts with long, crisp house-baked pita with a spicy feta cheese spread. A pot of strong black tea precedes the feast. Tear into soft rounds of pita destined to be dipped into olive oil and za’atar, the dry spice condiment. Little dishes filled with house-cured olives, makdous (oil cured eggplant), feta cheese, butter, halva (tahini pistachio sweets), jams and labneh (strained yogurt) sidle next to fresh slices of tomato and cucumber. Breakfast is served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but you may be tempted to stay, zaman style, for lunch and dinner too. $12.95. 9115 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview, 855-669-4246, oozicorner.com

Beef koubideh lunch special at Kabobi Grill.

No matter whether you visit Kabobi Grill at lunch or dinner, you can score a satisfying meal made of freshly grilled meat and crunchy vegetable sides. But if you drop by for lunch, you can order this enormous platter of food for only $7.95. That includes one very long piece of beef koubideh (sometimes spelled koobideh), which is made of ground beef mixed with herbs and onions. It’s served atop a sizable stack of dill rice, with a scoop of hummus and salad of cucumbers and tomatoes. Oh, and don’t forget about the pita bread dished out for free. 4748 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-583-1400, kabobigrill.com

Falafel pita sandwich at Naf Naf Grill.

Did you know that Naf Naf Grill — while it has successfully stretched franchises all the way out to the East Coast — began in Chicagoland? The fast-casual Middle Eastern restaurant opened its first location in Naperville 10 years ago and eventually spread the gospel of falafel through the Loop, where it has become one of the city’s go-to spots to grab a quick bite, especially for lunch. Naf Naf hasn’t been the only spot serving quick, tasty Middle Eastern cuisine downtown during the last decade, but there’s no disputing that it has been one of the most successful. Its food has a lot to do with that. The pita sandwich is the preference, although you’ll get a pita even if you choose a bowl. For proteins, go with the falafel or chicken shawarma, both well-seasoned and always moist. The show-stealer, though, might be the garnishes: the chopped salad is fine, but the purple cabbage, sumac onions and Middle Eastern pickles are not to be missed. Prices vary by location; $7.35-$7.95 at 326 N. Michigan Ave., 312-263-0019, nafnafgrill.com

Lamb at Zad by Pita Inn.

Dating to 1982, Pita Inn was such a north suburban sensation at its original Skokie location on Dempster Street that it needed new, larger digs. Those opened two miles west, also in Skokie and also on Dempster Street, in 2015. In Pita Inn’s place sprouted Zad by Pita Inn, which, you guessed it, is also operated by the Pita Inn folks, though with a greater emphasis on entrees rather than the standard chicken shawarma, falafel and hummus. Among the stars at Zad is the lamb ($14.99), which arrives as a glorious glop: yellow rice ringed with green beans simmered in tomato sauce and topped with tender lamb. Every component is delectable on its own — savory rice, tangy beans and rich, gamey lamb — but swirl them together and you get a clue to why that strip mall storefront has been home to some of the suburbs’ most heralded Middle Eastern food for 37 years and counting. 3910 Dempster St., Skokie, 847-410-7999, www.zadbypitainn.com

Yogurt Iskender Kebab.

The yogurt iskender kebab from I-Cafe Sukur’s Place is a showstopping behemoth of a dish. The first thing you see when it hits the table is the bright, red tomato sauce, generously slathered over the entirety of the dish. Tucked under it are thin slices of savory lamb and beef doner kebab, generously spiced and fragrant, sitting on a layer of tart and bright yogurt. The base layer is made up of chunks of spongy bread that catch the liquid from the meat, yogurt and tomato sauce. It’s incredibly fragrant and comforting and you’ll definitely want to bring a few friends or family to help you finish it. $13.99. 1814 W. Irving Park Road, 773-755-4022, sukursplace.com/icafe

Ghormeh sabzi, an Iranian herb stew, on July 27, 2019 at Noon-O-Kabab, the Persian restaurant in the Albany Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side of Chicago.

When a Persian-French chef friend made ghormeh sabzi, the herb stew considered the national dish of Iran by some, he insisted on using parsley leaves only, never the stems. At Noon-O-Kabab, the Persian restaurant in Albany Park on the Northwest Side, they offer a comparably beautiful bowl. Alluring dried black limes, fenugreek and time transform the parsley with cilantro, scallions and spinach into a deeply verdant pool, further enhanced with tender kidney beans and chunks of lamb. The Naghavi family opened Noon-O-Kabab in 1997, what was then a modest cafeteria-style storefront in the diverse neighborhood. Now two restaurants side by side, the casual counter service and white tablecloth establishments offer the herb stew, served with rice. Get the long grain basmati steamed white with a few saffron grains or the rice flecked green with dill. Choose one or both, but I highly recommend extra. $15.95 (counter service) and $18 (full service). 4701 N. Kedzie Ave., ‭773-279-8899‬, noonokabab.com

Koshary at Cairo Kebabs.

While Chicago certainly doesn’t lack for Middle Eastern restaurants, Egyptian food is slightly more difficult. One of the few options I could find (and I’d love to be proven wrong) is Cairo Kebabs in Lincoln Park. Here you can try koshary ($8.75, sometimes also spelled kushari), an exceedingly popular vegetarian dish in Egypt that combines more kinds of carbs than seems possible. Can you think of another dish that features pasta, lentils, rice and chickpeas? Fortunately, those comforting ingredients are balanced with a heap of crispy fried onions and a slightly spicy tomato sauce, making the dish far more exciting than you’d expect. You can also ask for hot sauce, if you need an even more aggressive kick. 1524 W. Fullerton Ave., 773-687-8413, cairokebab.com

Labneh from Cedar Palace.

When I learned that yogurt could be eaten in a savory way, I felt like the entire world had suddenly opened up to me. This soft, ultra-strained yogurt is common in Middle Eastern cuisine and for good reason — it offers a lightness to heavy dishes, a cool balm to spicy flavors, and a creaminess that doesn’t overpower. At Cedar Palace, the labneh ($4.50) is served with a generous glug of olive oil, a scattering of mint and served with pita bread. It’s rich and thick and perfect to pair with whatever dish you’re ordering from the restaurant, whether it’s a lentil soup or a combination plate loaded up with meats. 655 W. Armitage Ave., 312-643-0933, cedarpalacechicago.com

Fahsa Lamb at Shibam Restaurant.

Order the fahsa lamb ($13.99), and you’ll get screaming hot black bowl of stew that bubbles furiously for minutes after hitting the table. (It reminds me of how Korean soups are often dished out at a fierce boil.) Fahsa is a traditional Yemeni dish featuring stewed lamb in a broth bulked out with okra and laced with fenugreek. It also has a legit heat, so even after you let the stew cool, watch out for the heat from the chiles. You could dig in with a spoon, or you could use some of the restaurant’s wonderful khubz bread to scoop up a mouthful. 4807 N. Elston Ave., 773-977-7272, shibam.com

Za'atar mana'eesh at Libanais ($2.75).

Mana’eesh is a large circular flatbread topped with any number of ingredients and cut into triangles, which honestly doesn’t sound too far off from a pizza. But instead of tomato sauce and cheese, toppings usually focus on olive oil and some dynamic spice blend. That’s definitely the case with the za’atar mana’essh ($2.75) at Libanais. Za’atar is a spice blend popular in the Middle East that often contains herbs like thyme, sesame seeds and ground sumac. When sprinkled generously on the flatbread, it lends every bite an aromatic nuttiness, with a fascinating citrus note. 3300 W. Devon Ave., Lincolnwood, 224-470-1515, www.libanaischicago.com

Masabacha hummus, defined by whole chickpeas, and pita by chef Zachary Engel at Galit ($12).

James Beard award-winning chef Zachary Engel opened Galit just four months ago. The local, seasonal Middle Eastern and Israeli immigrant-inspired restaurant earned three stars from Phil Vettel, I think before the signs even went up on the sun-drenched storefront. Engel says their brisket hummus has become the signature in the Lincoln Park area. For him personally, though, it’s the mushroom. I suggest starting with his masabacha hummus, defined by whole chickpeas swimming in a luminous pool of golden olive oil. Tear off a piece of warm house-baked pita to swipe through a cloud of green herbed tehina sesame paste and a generous sprinkle of smoky red Aleppo pepper. You will understand why this silky spread is the standard to which all others should be compared. $12. 2429 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-360-8755, galitrestaurant.com

Falafel from Taste of Lebanon ($5.19).

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to Taste of Lebanon only to realize I didn’t bring cash. But the walk to and from the ATM only ramps up the anticipation of getting my hands on some of the crispy balls of falafel ($5.19) that this neighborhood spot is known for. The patties are made with ground chickpeas, herbs and liberally spiced before they’re plopped in the deep fryer, emerging with a perfectly crunchy brown crust and a soft pale-green middle. The falafel is served on a bed of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, a few pickled peppers and a side of tahini. Warm pita bread comes separately, wrapped in aluminum foil. You can also get the falafel in a wrap with hummus or baba ganoush. 1509 W. Foster Ave., 773-334-1600

Sours: https://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/craving/ct-food-middle-eastern-best-chicago-craving-viz-0801-20190801-f3lwa6xau5c5pclxaizesuuikm-story.html
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Top 10 Most Visited Middle Eastern Restaurants in Chicago

1

Galit

Hours:

Address:2429 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

Phone:+17733608755

Website:http://www.galitrestaurant.com

2

Masada

Chicago’s newest and best Middle Eastern dining experience, Masada is a sit-down restaurant offering an eclectic dining experience with something for everyone.

Hours:

Address:2206 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Phone:+17736978397

Website:http://masadachicago-hub.com

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants

3

Noon O Kabab

Perfectly Persian

Hours:

Address:4661 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Phone:+17732799309

Website:http://www.noonokabab.com

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants

4

Old Jerusalem Restaurant

Hours:

Address:1411 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610

Phone:+13129440459

Website:http://oldjerusalemchicagoil.com

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants

5

Kabobi - Persian and Mediterranean Grill

http://kabobigrill.com

Hours:

Address:4748 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Phone:+17735831400

Website:http://kabobigrill.com

  • Persian Restaurants
  • Mediterranean Restaurants

6

Naf Naf Grill

Hours:

Address:326 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601

Phone:+13127508759

Website:http://nafnafgrill.com

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants
  • Falafel Restaurants

7

Cafe Orchid

Cafe Orchid offers delicious authentic Turkish cooking in Chicago, Illinois.

Hours:

Address:1746 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613

Phone:+17733273808

Website:http://cafeorchid-hub.com

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants

8

Rumi Middle Eastern Grill

Counter-serve option for relaxed Middle Eastern–Mediterranean favorites such as falafel & shawarma.

Hours:

Address:1534 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Phone:+17736665119

Website:http://www.rumifalafel.com

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants
  • Falafel Restaurants

9

Naf Naf Grill

Hours:

Address:309 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60606

Phone:+13122519000

Website:http://www.nafnafgrill.com

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants

10

Shawarma Inn

Address:2011 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Phone:+17732357777

  • Middle Eastern Restaurants

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