Baltimore Banner reader Robert Musila emailed me in search of Middle Eastern cuisine in Baltimore. The city has a few well-known spots serving dishes from the region, including Lebanese Taverna and Ammoora, the new Levantine fine-dining restaurant getting a lot of local buzz.
Although there are about 18 countries geographically in the Middle East, the food of the region is widely accepted to include Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Cypriot, Georgian, Iranian, Israeli, Kurdish and Turkish cuisines. Here are five Middle Eastern restaurants I have enjoyed in the area.
401 S. Broadway, Baltimore
Open every day from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., this humble Fells Point spot serves some unforgettable Yemeni food. While the restaurant is mostly set up for carryout orders, it does have tables and chairs if you decide to dine in. Fahsa, a popular Yemeni stew with lamb chunks prepared in a lamb broth with spices, is what I ate on my last visit. The stew came with Mulawah — a bread cooked in a clay oven — soup and salad. Tender lamb, carrots and other vegetables gave this soup a flavor and texture that felt like eating a home-cooked meal. The bread was warm, buttery and flaky. With the convenience of lunch, dinner or late-night hours, this is a spot to add to your foodie list.
301 W. 29th St., Baltimore
The plant-based Egyptian concept recently opened at R. House in Remington, and the reviews have been glowing. I visited the brightly colored stall for breakfast and ordered the Turkish coffee, Egyptian breakfast and its signature Koshary bowl.
Turkish coffee is unfiltered, so the taste is especially strong. A sweetened espresso is the closest comparison as far as texture, taste and size. I have been back a few times just for the Turkish coffee. It is a delicious caffeinated boost.
The Egyptian breakfast has a little bit of everything: fava beans, falafel, pita bread, baba ganoush, roasted potatoes, garlic dressing, harissa and pickles. The restaurant’s falafel was the standout here — made from fava beans and heavily spiced. My Koshary bowl was a delight, too, with rice, lentils, gluten-free pasta, tomato sauce, chickpeas, vinaigrette and fried onions.
2 Hanover Road, Reisterstown, MD
Little Georgia captures the culture of its country in the details of the space. There are mannequins dressed in traditional Chokhas — high-necked wool coats — videos of traditional Georgian dance playing on large TV screens and a menu with the classics.
I visited on a Saturday afternoon. The restaurant had just opened for the day, so we were among the first to arrive. By the time we left, the restaurant was filled with diners. Since this was my first time eating Georgian cuisine, I wanted to try some of the staples. The owner, who stopped by each table to greet guests, was our server and recommended the Adjaruli Khachapuri. Khachapuri is a boat-shaped bread filled with cheese and topped with a raw egg. I was instructed to first mix the egg into the hot cheese to create a dip of sorts, then tear small pieces of bread from the dish and scoop it into the dip.
Bread and cheese is usually a comfort dish for me, and this dish fit right in. Next, I ate the chicken shish kebabs, which had sizable chunks of juicy, seasoned grilled chicken. We paired the kebabs with a lovely Georgian red wine. I highly recommend everything I tried.
816 Cathedral St., Baltimore
Cafe Fili is a gathering place. If you are meeting someone or just want to lounge in an open, inviting space, this cafe is the place to be. I usually order a latte and the hummus sampler, which includes classic, red pepper, and pesto hummus. Some days, you may see colorful and creative latte designs courtesy of JayCee Quitiquit (@colorsandcaffeine on Instagram).
The Lebanese/Mediterranean-inspired menu has sandwiches, soups, salads and bowls. On my last visit, I tried the Chicken Shawarma — freekeh grain, roasted cauliflower, pickled turnip, chopped salad, classic hummus and garlic yogurt — and the Falafel Grain Bowl, which has Israeli couscous, chopped salad, harissa hummus, pickled turnip, roasted cauliflower and tahini sauce. Both were light, energizing bites. Next time, I will look for pastries from the cafe’s new pastry chef.
6805 York Road, Baltimore
Villagio Cafe serves Persian cuisine in a clean, cozy setting decorated with botanical pieces of art inside opulent, large picture frames. I stopped in for lunch and ate the vegetable stew and hummus. The hummus was the creamiest hummus I have had in a while. It came with small slices of pita for dipping. The veggie stew, made with okra, sautéed onions, yellow split peas and eggplant simmered in a tomato sauce, came with saffron basmati rice and salad. I added a little salt and found this lunch to be warm and filling.
I would love to know your favorite restaurants or share my own dining suggestions in the Baltimore area. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with recommendations and questions.