Where We’re Eating Right Now: Takeout and Delivery Middle Eastern Food in Philly

Looking for a place to get takeout or delivery falafel and shawarma during the pandemic? We've got a few suggestions.


Middle Eastern restaurants

Mezze spread at Suraya, one of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Philadelphia. Photograph by Michael Persico

Things are weird right now. We get that. But since no one can be expected to cook every meal at home during this emergency, we’ve got a list here that might help you out. If you’re looking for a Middle Eastern restaurant that does delivery or takeout, that offers a product that travels well and is, of course, delicious, we’ve got some suggestions. Because these are the Middle Eastern takeout and delivery options that we’re living on right now, so maybe you can, too. (Keep scrolling for our full list of Philly’s best Middle Eastern spots. We’ve marked the ones that are currently operating with a star.)

 

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Suraya, Fishtown
Suraya was a miracle when it opened in Fishtown a couple years back — a huge, multi-part Lebanese restaurant, bar and market doing all-day service in fancy-pants surroundings, serving cocktails spiked with black tea, sumac-dusted french fries and roasted lamb with pomegranate. It was brilliant, welcoming, delicious and beloved, absolutely one of the best restaurants in the city. And then came COVID-19, months of confusion, takeout, delivery and a slow clawing back toward normalcy. Right now, Suraya’s kitchen is putting out a substantial menu of favorites for takeout (something they completely disallowed in the Before Times), and just starting to take reservations for carefully timed sit-down dinners in one of the most beautiful garden seating areas in all of Philly. Available for takeout and delivery

 

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Renata’s Kitchen, University City
Ever since Renata’s moved into its new location with a brand new, much-bigger kitchen (and an outdoor patio!), the owners have been able to beef up the menu’s Lebanese offerings. A takeout feast of grilled halloumi, crispy grape leaves, fried caulifower, haloumi, and mjaddara isn’t only recommended during this pandemic. It’s necessary. Available for takeout

 

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Stina Pizzeria, West Passyunk
Starting July 8th, Stina is back in action, doing takeout wood oven baked merguez pide, Moroccan chicken kebabs, and fatoush salads. Missed you, Stina. Available for pickup only

 

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Bitar’s, South Philly
For decades, the Bitar family has operated Bitar’s in South Philly, providing Middle Eastern groceries, pantry supplies and food to the neighbors and chefs. No way was a little inconvenience like a global pandemic gonna stop them. The gyro and falafel sandwich with harissa mayo AND hot sauce is a guaranteed winner, the fattouch tawook salad is perfect for a hot summer night, and if you’re looking for something a little more inventive, go for the “Bitzza”–a Middle Eastern take on flatbread pizza that comes in several varieties. Available for delivery on Grubhub

 

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Manakeesh, University City
Wanna know one of the reasons I love Philly? Because I’ve covered restaurants in a lot of places, and I’m not sure I’ve EVER found another place where I can get ful, balilah and waffles all in the same place. Manakeesh is that place — Lebanese specialties, lots of chickpeas, chicken tawook flatbread and waffles all day long. What’s not to love? Available for delivery via Grubhub

 

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Saad’s Halal, University City
Speaking of cross-cultural food experiences, how about an all-halal, everything-from-scratch Middle Eastern restaurant that does baklava, Turkish coffee, excellent falafel and lamb schwarma AND near-perfect cheesesteaks? That’s Saad’s–adored by students, beloved by locals, respected by cynical, over-fed food writers and an absolute pillar of UCity’s fantastically varied food scene. Available for takeout or delivery via UberEats

 

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Al Zaytouna, Bella Vista
Look, I know you might be getting sick of takeout pizzas and whatever pastas you can throw together from your Instacart deliveries. So if you’re looking to liven up dinnertime, but don’t know exactly what you want, check out Al Zaytouna. The menu is huge, covering all kinds of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean specialties, from spicy merguez wrap sandwiches stuffed with mishwia salad and french fries (!!!) to some of the best baba ghanoush in the city. Available for delivery via Caviar

 

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Mamoun’s, Old City
Mamoun’s is a falafel specialist. Yeah, they do other stuff (pita sandwiches, kabob platters, hummus, etc), but folks love the falafel most of all. So if the pandemic has forced you to reduce your falafel intake more than you’re comfortable with, check ’em out. Available for pickup or delivery via Caviar


Where to Eat Middle Eastern Food in Philadelphia: The Ultimate Guide

Cuisines are often defined by lines on a map, but from a cultural standpoint, the Middle East is more of a concept than it is any one place. And its culinary influence knows no bounds, weaving through Israel, Iran and Turkey all the way to the kitchens of North Africa, Central Asia and so much of Europe. Of course, it’s stretched to here, as well. From the tried-and-true to newcomers shaking things up, these are the restaurants, cafes and bakeries defining this new dining era.

*Hadramout, University City
Sure, there are other great things on the menu at this Yemeni restaurant (the fish mofa, absolutely), but come to Hadramout for lamb — lamb haneeth on the bone, lamb soup, lamb fahsah in a clay bowl, with homemade bread still warm from the tandoor. 136 South 45th Street.

*Sansom Kabob House, Bella Vista
The menu is a treasure trove of authentic Afghan food. Fried sambosas filled with chickpeas and potatoes are maybe the perfect appetizer. The chalaw kadu is sautéed pumpkin topped with yogurt and served over rice. There’s cauliflower stew, Afghani meatballs, steamed scallion dumplings topped with meat sauce — and, yeah, plenty of kebabs, too. 1300 South Street.

*Café La Maude, Northern Liberties
From the weird juxtaposition of croquet madame and foul moudamas, poulet roti and fattoush salad, there’s so much to love about this French/Middle Eastern all-day brunch café.  There are cute pastries, macarons, coffee and a distinctly Parisian vibe, and the only real problem with the place is that it closes every day by 4 p.m. 816 North 4th Street.

*Al Zaytouna, Bella Vista
Al Zaytouna is a BYO. And that’s handy, because while you could bring along a bottle of your favorite dinner wine, there’s not much that goes better with grape leaves, chicken schwarma smoky from the grill, sour yogurt and big plates of grilled lamb and couscous than a couple sharp and hoppy local IPAs or a six pack of Yuengling. 906 Christian Street.

*ManakeeshWest Philly
Don’t miss out on the Lebanese specialties — the balilah, or the fatteh with hot chickpeas and nuts, sour yogurt and fried pita. Don’t miss the namesake manakeesh (flatbreads topped with everything from mozzarella and red sauce to za’atar labneh or hot cheese and roasted red peppers). Don’t miss the bakery cases, filled with shamiyyat date cookies, amazing baklava, walnut semolina cookies dusted with powdered sugar and shortbread stuffed with jam. Really, just don’t miss anything here — a French-Lebanese café that does almost everything remarkable well. 4420 Walnut Street.

*Zahav, Society Hill
Zahav is the restaurant that defines Israeli cooking for this city — that does it for the entire country, really, which makes Philly a kind of ground zero for modern Israeli cuisine. It’s Michael Solomonov’s signature restaurant, bringing mezze like fried cauliflower with mint and lemon and raw lamb kibbeh to the forefront and making pomegranate lamb shanks and chicken kebabs with persimmon and mango preserves into our special-occasion foods. 237 St. James Place.

Middle Eastern restaurants

Loose-leaf teas at Safa Persian Teahouse. Photograph by Michael Persico

Safa Persian Teahouse, Manayunk
Inspired by the teahouse culture of Iran, Safa is a bright, welcoming spot for friends and neighbors to gather for siphon-brewed tea (more than two dozen varieties), specialty drinks like saffron milkshakes and cherry sharbat, and Persian snacks made by owner Amin Shirazi’s mom. The menu is short but perfect, offering small plates of pastries, hummus, dolmeh, wrap sandwiches and dips to go along with the pots of tea steeping on every table. 4165 Main Street.

*Bishos Café and Bakery, Northeast Philly
A Palestinian cafe in a strip mall deep in the Northeast is one of the best places you can go for a Middle Eastern breakfast of omelets speckled green with parsley and fresh-squeezed orange juice from a big, clanking machine. There are schwarma wraps at lunch, a bakery case full of baklava, and a dinner menu that’s heavy on kebabs served over rice with onions and peppers, man’oushe flatbreads, and pots of Turkish coffee. 2329 Cottman Avenue, at the Roosevelt Mall.

*Tabouli, Ardmore
Tucked away in the corner of the Ardmore Farmers Market, Tabouli does lunch bowls and pitas, hummus, quick prepared foods, and, for dinner, schwarma and salads, spinach and feta pie, manakeesh flatbreads and special whole dinners, like stuffed peppers or Moroccan chicken with rice, noodles and a salad. 120 Coulter Avenue, at the Ardmore Farmers Market.

*Alyan’sQueen Village
This institution just off South Street has been open since 1982, and they’re still one of the best spots in the city for classics like falafel, chicken schwarma, or their own burger — served in pita, of course. 603 South 4th Street.

Middle Eastern restaurants

Roasted lamb shoulder at Zahav. Photograph by Michael Persico

*Suraya, Fishtown
This enormous Lebanese market, bakery, cafe and restaurant opened in stages but didn’t show its true power to reshape Philly’s dining scene until it launched a dinner service full of some of the best Levantine eats you’ll find anywhere. From the simplest things (baba ghanoush and fresh, warm pita) to whole grilled chicken marinated in sumac and lamb sausages rich with coriander, cinnamon and clove, with a full cocktail list and a beautiful dining room full of warmth and people, this place gives new meaning to Middle Eastern in Philly. 1528 Frankford Avenue.

*Bitar’s, East Passyunk
For more than four decades, this place has been slinging schwarma and falafel for its neighbors in South Philly. And after a recent refresh of the dining room and kitchen, it’s more focused than ever, making everything from pastries to flatbreads masquerading as pizza (called “Bitzza”) to french-fry platters that are like Middle Eastern poutine. 947 Federal Street.

*Apricot Stone, Northern Liberties
Chef Fimy Ishkhanian mixes a lot of traditions on her menu here. There’s hummus and spanakopita, kibbeh and lahmajoun. There are kebabs and falafel and cheese baklava, and all of it comes from her experience growing up Armenian in Aleppo, her time in Toronto, and the years she spent on the Main Line, teaching suburban Philadelphians everything she knew about hummus long before Dizengoff made it a staple. 1040 North American Street.

*Paprica Grill, Washington Square West
In the window, steak doner spins on a vertical spit, glistening from a melting crown of beef fat and roasted tomatoes. They’re very proud of their doner at Paprica Grill, as they are their homemade bread and blistery pide (Turkish pizzas) and baklava. 811 Sansom Street.

Middle Eastern restaurants

Paprica Grill chef Yasar Korhan. Photograph by Michael Persico

*Judah Grill, Northeast Philly
Israeli cuisine for the Northeast. Judah is a closely packed space with a small bakery case and a broad menu that has lamb burgers, fish and chips, chicken wings, baklava, apple cake, and a whole spread of schwarma, kebabs, grape leaves, foul and other classic Middle Eastern dishes. 9311 Krewstown Road.

Irwin’s, East Passyunk
A beautiful rustic-industrial space with historic graffiti on the walls, plus a gorgeous rooftop area with legendary views of deep South Philly. The cocktails are old-school, and the menu is not. Irwin’s kitchen does a very modern take on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, offering small plates and bar snacks like fried carrot fritters with feta and manti dumplings, with chili oil to dip them in and garlic yogurt to cool them out. 800 Mifflin Street, in the Bok Building.

*Kanella Grill, Washington Square West
At dinner, plates of olives, stuffed grape leaves, and kebabs of Cypriot pork and lamb sausage. At brunch, a Syrian breakfast with eggs fried in olive oil, sourdough bread and sour yogurt sauce. Kanella Grill is a pure expression of the simple, delicious flavors of Mediterranean cuisine where it begins to shade over into Middle Eastern. 1001 Spruce Street.

*Aya’s Café, Logan Square
A small, neighborhood Mediterranean café with a mixed menu of American and Middle Eastern dishes. You can safely skip the cheeseburgers and crab cakes, and stick to the kofta, gyro, stuffed grape leaves and falafel—called temaya here, and made from fava beans instead of chickpea. 2129 Arch Street

*Makkah Market, West Philly
You know that old truism about cabbies always knowing where the best food is? Yeah, well Makkah Market is the place that proves it true — a favorite stop UCity drivers (and students) looking for fish rice, schwarma, vegetarian wrap sandwiches or kebabs. Bonus: Makkah Market is also a grocery, and the whole place is open 24/7. 4249 Walnut Street

*Desert RoseMedia
Moroccan, Israeli and Iraqi cuisine at a BYO on the Main Line? Absolutely. The kitchen makes its own hummus and pita, and you’ll want to check out the versions served with ground lamb or poached eggs. Beyond that, check out the potato bourekas and their signature chicken schwarma with Israeli hot sauce (harif) and amba, a sour pickled mango condiment. 305 West State Street

*Isot, Bella Vista
It’s rare enough to find a restaurant in Philly that specializes in Turkish food — and rarer still to find one that does breakfast. But Isot has both, offering a weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, lunch on the weekdays, and dinners full of hummus and kebabs, manti dumplings with mint and red pepper oil, massive mix plates of lamb chops, kebabs and kofta, and then kanafeh for dessert. 622 South 6th Street.

Marrakesh, Queen Village
For more than 30 years, this place has been bringing the flavors of Morocco to Philly. You walk down an alley and ring the doorbell, and it’s like stepping into another world, with dim lights, the smell of incense, rosewater, and a tasting menu that might showcase chicken with lemon and olives, lamb tajine with almonds, eggplant cooked in tomato sauce, or chicken b’stella dusted with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon. 517 South Leithgow Street.

Middle Eastern restaurants, mapped

Published as “Philly’s 15 Essential Middle Eastern Restaurants” in the May 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.