While Dan and Lana Wright’s Abigail Street has been riffing heavily on Mediterranean cuisine since 2011—the two met working at Chicago’s Souk in 2003—the Middle Eastern restaurant scene has blossomed, sometimes in unlikely parts of town. Here’s why:
Immigration: Tylersville Road has a thriving Middle Eastern community, and foot traffic near the Clifton Mosque is so dense during Friday prayers that police officers direct traffic. Both neighborhoods have multiple restaurants that feature harira—a traditional Moroccan tomato-lentil soup—and Marrakech Moroccan Café’s is a favorite.
Availability: The dishes may have unfamiliar names, but the ingredients are ubiquitous (think parsley, tomato, and lemon). Head to Mason’s Phoenician Taverna for insanely fresh-baked pita with an order of muhammara—a mysterious walnut dip laced with cumin and a mince of red bell pepper.
Cheap, Cheap: Not only are the ingredients easily available, they’re also budget-friendly. Wright freely admits to buying spices in 10-pound bags, while our secret weapon is the $3 falafel lunch special at the Al-Madina Market in Corryville.
Communal Dining: The surest bets are always the cold appetizer sampler and the mixed grill. Haci Grill’s creamy carrot tarator is the cold mezze star of West Chester. And chef Comert Ardic’s mixed yogurt kebabs—chicken, lamb, and beef—are priced for three, but easily feed four.