Middle Eastern Food is one of my favorite cuisines and a while back I took a tour of middle eastern food restaurants in Los Angeles.
Our first stop was in La Crescenta where we stopped to taste some tasty dishes at Shanto’s Bakery.
Specialties include oven-fresh flatbread and wraps. The owner brought out scrumptious wraps filled with Beef Soujouk, grilled Halloumi Cheese as well as baked Falafel. We also tried Zaatar, which is a flat round bread with thyme, oregano, herbs, and olive oil baked on top.
3747 Foothill Blvd. Unit C, La Crescenta CA 91214
Next up was The Zaatar Factory and Bakery in Burbank.
We ate more Zaatar bread and could watch how they made it. We also sampled to die for Soujouk with cheese, (sausage roll) The shop also sells Bureks, mixed with potato, mushroom, beef, various other sandwiches, cakes, and pastries.
Zaatar spice can be used on meats, vegetables, rice, and bread. You can also make it into a spread with Lebanese olive oil or sprinkle it on yogurt. Lebanese tradition believes that Zaatar spices make the mind alert and the body strong. Children eat it before a test so they’ll be able to answer the questions better.
The Zaatar Factory and Bakery
2909 N. Glenoaks Blvd. Burbank, CA 91504
We continued our tour to a restaurant in North Hollywood called Skaf’s Grill.
Skaf’s has been around since 1999 and had outstanding reviews plastered all over the walls as well as some beautiful pictures of Lebanon. The owner, Salim Skaf, insists that it is the best Los Angeles Lebanese food restaurant and he may be right. One customer was swooning over a Fatoosh salad he ordered.
It’s a small, unassuming restaurant, but those are usually the best. We were each given a Kibbeh Ball to take on the bus with us. The balls are made with bulgur wheat mixed with ground beef, onions, and pine nuts and are the most popular dish in Lebanon. They look like little brown footballs.
Mr. Skaf also proclaimed that his Baba-Ghannoush (made with eggplant) is the best around. I’d love to go back and try it. All the ingredients at the restaurant are fresh and imported from Lebanon. There are two other Skaf’s restaurants run by his sons in Glendale. Lebanon is slightly larger than Los Angeles with the same number of people, approximately 4,000,000 and, according to Mr. Skaf, everyone knows one another.
6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd. N. Hollywood, CA 91606
Skaf’s on Facebook
After so much great food, we were ready to try some wine. So we stopped at a liquor store called Mission Wine and Spirits. (available at several locations) It has a selection of wines from Lebanon and Arak, an anise-flavored liquor similar to Greek Ouzo.
We tried a Ksara Cabernet and some Arak, which is 54% alcohol. It’s a traditional liquor in Lebanon and is also popular in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. When it’s mixed with a little water and an ice cube, the liquor turns milky white.
The store also has an unusual and large collection of liquor including some that are exotic and expensive. They had a Remy Martin Louis on display selling for $6999. Mission Wine and Spirits is a fun place to visit.
Mission Wine and Spirits
1785 E. Washington Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91104
Dessert was in Granada Hills where we were given a yummy Barazek cookie from Vrej Pastery. It was made with honey and sesame seeds.
11148 Balboa Blvd
Last, but not least was a visit to one of my favorite Los Angeles Middle Eastern food eateries . . . Carnival Restaurant.
It’s widely known for its excellent Lebanese cuisine and, because it’s so popular, was too busy to seat us for a tasting. Instead, the staff gave us each a hefty portion of tantalizing tabbouleh, hummus, and French Fries. They soak the potatoes in water first to slough off the starch, and that’s part of what makes their fries so good. I don’t eat them often, but the fries at Carnival are difficult to resist.
4356 Woodman Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
When I go on food tours I always figure it’s not a good time to count calories. I’ll do penance later. Well . . . maybe. It’s best to immerse yourself in the entire experience.
Much thanks to Secret City Tours, led by the amazing John Bwarie and his wife Laura.
Have you ever been on a food tour? Where did you go and what did you taste? Please leave a comment below We’re drooling to know about it.