A Beirut Bite
Manakeesh Cafe Bakery brings Beirut to University City by serving casual, traditional Lebanese fare with only the freshest ingredients.
Upon stepping into the restaurant, you are immediately welcomed by a friendly staff eager to help first–timers navigate the menu. Despite tall ceilings and colorful walls, the space maintains a cozy atmosphere. With free Wi-Fi available, it’s easy to imagine sitting on their couch and writing an essay while sipping Lebanese tea.
Owner Wissam Chatla explained that their specialty, manakeesh, is a flatbread topped with cheese or meat and then folds over. The dough is similar to pizza, but not quite as crispy. I tried Wissam’s favorite manoosheh (singular), which came sprinkled with salty cheese, za’atar herbs like oregano and mixed vegetables. It was delicious: flavorful, not greasy and fresh tasting. All the flatbread is made on the premises with a special manakeesh brick oven, which gets about three times as hot as your average pizza oven.
In addition to manakeesh, I also tried their hummus and tabbouleh. I consider myself a bit of a hummus connoisseur, as I have eaten and prepared many varieties of hummus over my lifetime and have high standards. This hummus is by far the best I have tasted in Philadelphia and rivals the hummus in Jerusalem. It is smooth, not too garlicky, slightly lemony and topped with quality extra virgin olive oil.
The hummus was accompanied by piping hot pita bread, which was fresh from the oven. The tabbouleh was the perfect compliment to the rest of the meal. The parsley and mint in the vibrant salad balanced out the heavier flavors of the dinner.
I ended the meal with an assortment of scrumptious pastries that are all baked on–site. I tried baklavas topped with walnuts and cashews and a buttery sesame cookie filled with date puree. My Greek friend and resident baklava expert who joined me noted that the pastries were not covered in honey and cloying as they often are at many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants. But this omission did not lessen our enjoyment.
Finally, the tasty, cardamom–infused coffee cleansed my palate and packed enough punch that I didn’t need a nap after my dinner.
Manakeesh Cafe Bakery
4420 Walnut St.