Good things Come in Manakeesh Packages
This week Profiled Luncher Lauren is dining on Lebanese flatbreads called Manakeesh.
After hearing great things about Manakeesh, some friends and I used one of Philly’s few sunny days to walk to the Lebanese eatery. The space is located at 45th & Walnut and its beautiful interior, with exposed brick and artwork, really sets it apart from the rest of the neighborhood. It was my first time having Lebanese food and the staff was happy to help us make our selections. They explained that the restaurant’s namesake refers to folded Lebanese flatbreads with a crispy, doughy crust. Though there are often long lines on the weekends, we went on a Monday and were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch with great service.
For five people, our entire order was only $32 and we got to try a little of everything.
We started the meal with a bowl of foul dip that came with a fresh baked flatbread. Like hummus, foul is a hot fava bean spread topped with olive oil. This dish was our least favorite item because it was really lacking in flavor and was served with too much oil. I can’t quite put my finger on it – maybe it needed more salt? I got a little nervous that I was not going to like Manakeesh, but once we started eating everything else I knew the foul was an anomaly.
We shared two vegetarian and two meat manakeesh. These Lebanese flatbreads are served folded in half like a panini (though we opened them to take pictures and get a peek of what was inside), but they are probably not the most portable lunch. Ranging in price from $2.75 to $6.75, they are absolutely enormous and are more than enough for one person’s lunch. The combo, which is covered in zaatar on one side and cheese/sliced vegetables on the other, was our favorite vegetarian option. It was surprisingly hearty and had a really unique, Middle Eastern flavor from the spice mixture. The second vegetarian option was the Labneh, which came rolled rather than folded and reminded me of a gyro. It was filled with a yogurt cheese spread (kind of like tahini), olives, and oregano. The Labneh was a bit messier to eat and the bread to filling ratio seemed a bit off when it was rolled.
For meat, we ordered the Kafta with ground beef and the Lahm Bajeen with ground lamb. The Kafta came with pickles on top while the Lahm Bajeen had chopped vegetables mixed throughout. Both were delicious, but we preferred the contrast of the different vegetables and the Indian-esque flavor of the Lahm Bajeen.
We were already stuffed, but we couldn’t resist the selection of desserts. We shared one piece of baklava, four pieces of ‘gooey’ (dough balls), a pistachio pastry, and ‘crunchy’ (an armadillo-shaped fried dough). Each item had an unexpected twist. The baklava didn’t have as much of a honey flavor as we expected (still delicious though!), the ‘gooey’ balls were actually more crunchy on the inside, the pistachio pastry was nutty but as sweet as the glossy appearance suggested, and the ‘crunchy’ was actually licorice flavored.
Overall, Manakeesh was a huge success. I don’t know too many other places where you can have an enormous lunch with dessert for less than $6.50/person.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Delicious food at great prices
- Large selection for meat eaters and vegetarians
- Great atmosphere for lunch, weekend brunch, or doing work
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I don’t like a heavy lunch
- There is often a wait
- Very few lower carb options
Manakeesh Cafe Bakery, 4420 Walnut Street (@45th St) 215 921-2135