My Fave Mediterranean Middle Eastern Spots in NYC

I loveeee me some good Middle Eastern food. I am sad to report that I have not been to Israel, Turkey or Lebanon… or really any of the Mediterranean Middle East. I have been to Dubai and Morocco, for that matter. However, I am a huge fan of the food I have experienced. In Dubai, the food is a blend of Middle Eastern influences and it’s called Emirati cuisine. Morocco also has its own cuisine, which is rich in flavor and a mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Mediterranean influences. So that being said, my palate hasn’t experienced the “real deal” of Israel, Lebanon or Turkey, but from what I do know, these place are some of my favorites here in NYC. I titled this article Mediterranean Middle Eastern, because here in the U.S., a lot of restaurants tend to blend influences. For example, I’ve seen Lebanese restaurants that advertise themselves strictly as Mediterranean, but they also have Middle Eastern dishes, as Lebanon is on the mediterranean, but also part of the middle east. I’m leaving out European Mediterranean here, and focusing only on Middle Eastern Mediterranean.

Ilili

236 5th Ave, New York, NY 10001

This chic Flatiron restaurant is a great choice for sharing delicious Lebanese-inspired mezze. The restaurant prides itself on being “contemporary Mediterranean” with Lebanese influence. Now, if you come here, you don’t just get hummus. I mean, you can. I did (you can see it in the gallery below.) It was delicious. But in my opinion, if you’re paying money to dine at a restaurant like Ilili, you want to taste all of the chef’s most creative creations. Oh, and the baba ganoush. The baba ganoush is lit. Also, don’t skip out on the desserts. The pastry chef here is extremely talented, and it’s worth trying at least one dessert, instead of going out for ice cream after. You won’t be disappointed.

Au Za’atar

188 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

I have 3 words for you. Table side Shawarma. This place has blown up due to it’s indulgent shareable shawarma option (also comes with a giant centerpiece of fries) and while it’s a lot and pricy, it’s a really fun experience. The rest of the menu is also authentic Lebanese/Middle Eastern, so if you don’t want to get the meat sweats, you can go with some other options.

Shuka

38 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012

This is the spot for those trendy soho-lovers who want pink hummus and an Instagrammable atmosphere. It’s got pretty great food, but the scene is also a big attraction to out of towners, and #influencers. You have to start with the dips here. The whipped feta and pistachio is unique and delicious (not to mention, v Instagrammable). The other dips change seasonally, but that one is their special staple. Another dish I loved was the fried halloumi with spiced yogurt. If you come for brunch, it would be silly not to get the shakshuka.

Shoo Shoo

371 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

This is another trendy Israeli-influenced restaurant. It’s in the heart of Nolita, and has an adorable atmosphere. They focus on grass-fed organic proteins, whole grains and seasonable vegetables, so you know they’re not messing around. I guess that’s also very American of them… but they gotta appeal to the NYC health nuts somehow (which I’m convinced now makes up 50% of the NYC population.) The vibes of this place are cute and casual and great for that lunch or dinner date, or just getting together with a friend. It’s a happy medium. You can also share two starters and an entrée if you’re dining with one person — the dishes are pretty big!

Bustan

487 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

My heart has a soft spot for Bustan because Sebastian and I had our first date here. *Beams and blushes* I remember the food and atmosphere being perfect for the occasion.. and I remember walking in to Sebastian sitting at a table and smiling at me with two moscow mules. The menu boasts shareable plates, great cocktails, delicious entrées. The ambiance is also perfect (in my opinion) it’s not too trendy, but it’s crowded and has a neighborhood feel. Bustan is located in the upper west side, so it’s typically got more of that neighborhood clientele. The food is mainly Israeli with a mix of Southern European, western Asian and north African influences. Some of the dishes also have an American touch. If you come here, you must start with a mezze platter, then get the sizzling shrimp to share.

Kubeh

464 Ave of Americas, New York, NY 10011

If you’re vibing Kurdish, Iraqi or Syrian cuisine, Kubeh is the place. To give you some context: kubeh is actually a dish which has an outer dough-like shell and an inner filling. Kubeh can be fried, baked, served in stew or raw. It’s known for being a comfort food, and that’s what this restaurant (obviously) focuses on. But don’t be fooled, they have a variety of other dishes that are well executed. Out of all the places on this list, Kubeh is the most casual. It’s a great spot for a working lunch or catching up with a friend.

Galata Mediterranean Cuisine

212 E 34th St, New York, NY 10016

On the Turkish side of things, Galata is an overlooked spot in Murray Hill with some authentic and delicious dishes. I worked with them back in 2016 to photograph their dishes, and I never will forget their delicious manti. Manti are homemade turkish dumplings stuffed with ground lamb and onion, in a garlic yogurt sauce. I’ve been to so many restaurants (some of NYC’s trendiest) and this manti was unforgettable. I totally underestimated this place when I came in to take photos of the food, and I bet a lot of people do too, since its not all over IG and viral AF. Well, it should be. And in addition to unreal food, the service was incredible. This places is 1000% worth checking out and I am happy I could put it on your radar!

Places that are good but, in my opinion, overrated? 12 Chairs is solid, but that’s about it. Go here for hummus and meat dishes, but don’t bother with the salads. Hummus Kitchen is also solid, but way too overpriced. Cafe Mogador is cute and has simple Middle Eastern food. It’s reliable, but also very expensive for the basics, which you can make at home.

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