In New York, a quick subway ride allows you to immerse yourself in the culture of the Middle East, be it Turkey, Lebanon, or Israel. Escape to this colorful area of the world and celebrate its rich traditions, if only for an evening. Middle Eastern restaurants in NYC – whether casual or upscale – provide ample opportunity to feast on classic dishes such as hummus, falafel, and kebabs, among other regional specialties.
When hunger strikes, Gotham delivers. The next time you have a hankering for flavors of the Middle East, try any of these spots, recognized as some of the best in New York City.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Taïm translates to “tasty” in Hebrew because that’s what you’ll discover at this gluten-free, vegan eatery. Known far and wide for its falafel, this casual outpost also provides incredibly fresh salads, spreads, sandwiches, mezze, and smoothies. Husband and wife team Einat Admony and Stefan Nafziger founded the original West Village location in 2004 because they felt nostalgic for their favorite Tel Aviv street food. Twelve years later, they own a second outpost in NoLIta and continue to bring delicious, healthful yet fast food to both locals and visitors.
222 Waverly Place
Even picky eaters will have a tough time narrowing choices at ilili. Every inventive dish is deeply rooted in Lebanese heritage, but Chef Philippe Massoud adds a modern twist to each. Opt for a medley of small plates to start since the restaurant offers a wide selection of hot and cold mezze for both meat-eaters and vegetarians, perfect for noshing as you sling back a “From Beirut with Passion.” Next, choose one of its main courses (think mixed grill, lamb chops, whole market fish, and boneless rib eye) with a wine pairing, of course. Finish your meal with dessert, perhaps the heavenly ilili candy bar (dark chocolate ganache, fig caramel, dulce de leche ice cream, salted pistachio) and a glass of the Alvear Solera 1927 PX Sherry to wash it down.
236 5th Ave
Located in a cozy basement space that could easily be missed unless you know it’s there, Hummus Place remains a go-to stop for authentic vegetarian Israeli cuisine on the Upper West Side. Menu favorites include the fava bean hummus, eggplant shakshuka, labane cheese, and ZA’ATAR pizza. Though the menu is somewhat limited, there’s not a bad dish on it, so order to your heart’s content. Sharing a selection of plates works so you can taste away, but be ready to take the leftovers with you. Beyond dinner, Hummus Place puts out a delightful weekend brunch with their version of eggs Benedict, as well as an Israeli breakfast and $2 mimosas, a true steal in a city known for $20 craft cocktails.
305 Amsterdam Ave
Falafel abounds at this famous spot that’s popular with college students and the budget-minded, but celebrities flock to this Greenwich Village institution as well. A pioneer in New York’s Middle Eastern food scene, Mamoun’s opened in 1971 as the first restaurant of its kind in New York City. The tradition lives on as this iconic family-owned establishment continues to cook its signature recipes for kafta kebab, tabbouleh, baba ganouj, falafel, and other Middle Eastern eats. Portions are generous, so go hungry.
119 MacDougal St
Using its wood-fired oven (hence the Arabic name, Taboon), this Hell’s Kitchen staple creates Middle Eastern cuisine with Mediterranean influences. You’ll find some standard fare in the mezze section of the menu, but additions like Spanish octopus (warm Moroccan tomato and pepper ragu), and seared sea scallops (mashed green garbanzo, Jerusalem artichoke, mushroom, quail egg and lime powder) are much less expected. For an entree, the terra cotta lamb chops remain a frontrunner, but be sure to save space for dessert. The silan (vanilla ice cream layered with puffed rice and date honey, sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva) is to die for.
773 10th Ave