One Simple Thing: Bishos Cafe and Bakery Reviewed

Bisho’s kanafeh | Photo by Ted Nghiem

In the morning, people come to Bishos for ijeh — an omelet with parsley and onions — and orange juice from the big, grinding, clanking machine behind the counter. At lunch, they roll in and out fast, clustering near the end of the counter to pick up shawarma wraps in blue-and-white-checked paper, flat-grilled whole, with flopping sticks of pickle folded in among the slabs of lamb and beef. They get banana and honey smoothies sour with Greek yogurt, and lemonades flecked with mint.

AT A GLANCE

★★★★

Bishos Cafe and Bakery
2329 Cottman Avenue, Northeast Philly

CUISINE: Palestinian

PRICES: $

Order This: The kebabs and the shawarma, for sure. Some foul and falafel on the side, and don’t forget pastry for dessert. Go for the baklava.

At night, the few tables in the small, brightly lit strip-mall space crowd with people coming in for flatbreads, excellent meat samosas stuffed with chunks of spiced beef and lamb, and trays of Turkish coffee, black as hell and powerful, poured into swirly blue cups. During Ramadan, Bishos was open until 2 a.m. for its friends, its neighbors who couldn’t eat between sunrise and sunset; who, for a month, adjusted their days so that breakfast was at 9 p.m. and midnight meant cheese pie, baklava from the bakery case, pots upon pots of Turkish coffee and big slabs of kanafeh — a Palestinian dessert made with thin layers of noodles soaked in a sugar syrup, layered with cheese and pistachios, dyed an orange-y red, then baked to order. It’s like a dessert lasagna — the kind of thing a kid would make if left in charge of the kitchen, but so traditional that versions of it have spread from Greece to the Balkans.

Perfect for its place, doing what it does with love and tradition, Bishos is small and sweet and packed with delicious things. The kebabs are generous and taste of long practice, served over rice with tiny chunks of roasted potato. The baklava is that ideal blend of crisp and sticky. The foul moudamas is comforting and soft, just fava beans swimming in olive oil, spiked with lemon, onion, lemon, tomato, lemon, chilies and lemon.

I stood around one afternoon watching World Cup soccer with the staff, waiting on my order while Egypt started giving up goals to Russia and everyone pretended not to care about the game anymore. The man’oushe with za’atar was perfect if you prefer za’atar above all other things. The hummus was as fluffy as a cloud, but the pita was disappointing. It tasted store-bought and stale.

But I’m fine with that, because everyone else is fine with that. Because Bishos isn’t perfect, but it is really good, and it fills a need — Palestinian and Middle Eastern food for people who want a taste of home, of history, and a welcoming, bright, happy place in which to eat it.

2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood


Rating Key
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in the region
★★★★: come from anywhere in the country

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