One of the greatest perks of living in San Francisco is the access to so many international eats. Though dim sum brunch or weeknight hangs at a Burmese place are commonplace, when was the last time you went out for Syrian food? Middle Eastern cuisine just hasn’t gotten the same time in the limelight here as food from other regions of the world, but with delicious options ranging from Iraqi and Yemeni cuisine to Turkish and Israeli food, it’s about time that changed. Here are fourteen of the best options.Read More
The 14 Best Middle Eastern Restaurants in San Francisco
From casual and takeout to formal feasts
It’s easy to miss this Afghani spot nestled on Van Ness, but it remains a staple for tasty Afghani cuisine and unique menu items such as kaddo, or baked pumpkin, and aushak, a delicious leek-filled dumpling.
If fresh pita and hot falafel is your idea of a perfect quick meal, you won’t want to miss this Israeli-inspired hotspot which gets rave reviews for both. It’s most popular at lunch, when lines tend to get long.
Pac Heights patrons line up for kebabs, mezzes, and “chubby pita” sandwiches at this elegant but casual Eastern Mediterranean restaurant from former fine-dining chefs Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz with partner John Litz. Sayat’s dad sends some of the spices they use from his home in Istanbul, as well as wild pistachios for a pistachio-based coffee. A full bar offers classic and creative cocktails plus Hungarian, Georgian, and Californian wines.
We have not just one, but two Yemeni restaurants in the city. Yemeni’s has plenty of unique dishes, but the standouts are the saltah (considered to be Yemen’s national dish) and the haneed, or roasted lamb. Frequent use of spices like fenugreek, ginger, and cardamon keep the flavors varied and interesting.
A La Turca
This Tenderloin spot is perhaps the best known Turkish restaurant in the city, and for good reason. The menu is fresh and full of authentic dishes that are often made by hand, including pide, the popular Turkish pizza equivalent. Their lentil soup, served with homemade bread, is a menu standout.
This family-run kebab joint has roots in the South Bay, but has also been delighting those who know about its Tenderloin location. The combination kebab plates and bolani, a stuffed flatbread, are a few highlights.
Yemeni food is a bit different from the cuisine of its neighbors -- expect spicy stews and hearty lamb and fava bean dishes, all eaten with flatbread. The chalkboard menu is in Arabic and it’s mostly Yemeni expats who dine here.
The term ‘jannah’ translates from Arabic to paradise or heaven, so you’re off to a good start here from the name alone. Their signature dish is a blend of marinated cucumber, eggplant, onion, and pepper, and you can also get safeeha, or Middle Eastern pizza, here. Their Iraqi-born chef puts a local California twist on the food, and their tagline, “Baghdad by the Bay,” plays off of an old nickname for San Francisco coined by Chronicle writer Herb Caen to denote its multicultural atmosphere.
Tucked away in a cozy corner of Hayes Valley, Mazzat serves up memorable Lebanese dishes, many of which are vegetarian-friendly. Their mazzat presents a sample of many of their items and is great for groups to share, but it’s the fatet batinjan (fried eggplant) that will have you craving this place again and again. They’ve also got Lebanese beer and wine if you’re so inclined.
As the only Egyptian restaurant in Northern California, along with frequent live music and belly dancing performances, a meal here promises to be a unique experience. The menu has lots of Middle Eastern favorites like hummus and kebab, but it’s the truly Egyptian dishes like kushari that make this spot worth visiting.
One of the more casual Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, Palmyra has standard Mediterranean fare punctuated by Syrian dishes such as ful moudamas and kibbi. They also serve rotisserie chicken, which pairs well with their famous house-made garlic sauce.
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At Beit Rima, young chef Samir Mogannam is serving a mix of heartfelt Jordanian and Palestinian dishes like fattoush, chicken shish tawook platters, and bowls of hummus ma’ Lehma (warm hummus topped with spiced beef). Named for his mother, the restaurant was formerly his father’s, a location of the small chain Burgermeister. With Beit Rima, Mogannam sought to return to his family’s culinary roots. Don’t miss his crispy falafel, puffy homemade bread, or light, floral muhalabia milk pudding for dessert.
Tuba - Authentic Turkish Restaurant
This Turkish eatery makes you feel like family from the moment you sit down. You can’t go wrong with anything from their menu (especially if you like lamb,) but if you ask nicely the off-menu manti, or Turkish dumplings in a yogurt sauce, are some of the best you can get outside of Turkey.
The Mission District staple is as classic as its name suggests. If you’re searching for traditional baba ghannoush, shawarma, falafel, ful...they have it here, and they do it well. Some even say they have the best hummus in the city. Try the mossabaka for a heartier take on the classic. They’ve moved a few doors down from their original location, offering more room and patio seating.
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