Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Manakeesh Café and Bakery

Last Saturday afternoon, instead of heading to our usual, conveniently located lunch spot, a friend and I ventured down Walnut Street past Supreme Shop n Bag to Manakeesh Café and Bakery at 44th Street.

We were surprised to find the small restaurant to be warm and comfortable, bustling with a sizable lunch crowd. The Lebanese fusion café featured a polished, well-furnished interior with welcoming yellow walls and artfully piled pastries and cakes on display. The restaurant was filled with Lebanese locals as well as many academic types, young professionals, and families.

Looking around the restaurant, we saw that most of the attendees were eating flatbread topped with meat or other mixtures. These flatbreads are called, not surprisingly, manakeesh. This dough is commonly topped with cheese or ground meat and folded into sandwiches. It can also be topped with zaatar, Middle Eastern herbs, and olive oil and served as a breakfast food. Manakeesh Café serves their flatbreads with many topping choices, including honey, nutella, labneh, a yogurt cheese spread, egg and cheese, and a variety of Halal meat.

As we waited for our orders, we watched the cook throw pull the flatbreads in and out of the brick oven. The busy restaurant staff lost my friend's order. Fortunately, the pleasant, courteous staff brought us free baklava to apologize for our wait. The baklava and manakeesh were well worth the wait. I reveled in the warm, soft flatbread mixed with the tangy ground lamb and beef mixture of my kafta order. My vegetarian friend also agreed that his hot cheese flatbread was delicious.

I enjoyed the café so much that I decided to return on a weekday morning. I found the atmosphere to be quite different. While the same pleasant staff members remained, the bustling restaurant’s environment had changed to a peaceful one, ideal for studying and quiet conversation. I was once again struck by how amiable the staff was as I watched one waitress pridefully adjust the empty tables’ tabletop decorations to just the right positions.

I was overwhelmed by the vast, diverse selection of pastries and sweets available. I asked the woman behind the counter for a breakfast pastry that wasn’t too sweet and a small coffee. She handed me Kanafe, sweet cheese baked into a mild white sweet bread with pistachios and a clear, sweet syrup poured over it. While I found the soft, cheese pastry cake a bit too rich for so early in the morning, I made plans to return for another at a better time of day and left contently sipping my coffee.

Manakeesh Cafe and Bakery
4420 Walnut St
Philadelphia PA 19104

1 comment:

  1. Definitely a good place to eat! I love this place and I can't wait to go there again. If you looking for a friendly customer service, you got it at Manakeesh.



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