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Now’s Not the Time to Go Low-Carb: LA’s Best Middle Eastern Restaurants

by Eva Katz

posted on January 16, 2019

Photo Courtesy: Bavel

Thanks to its diversity of cultures and cuisines, it’s possible to feel as though you’ve traveled across the globe without ever leaving Los Angeles city limits. Whether you’re craving Korean barbecue, a perfect pastrami sandwich, or pitas stuffed with falafel, LA’s got your back. Here, we’re highlighting the best Middle Eastern spots, from casual grab-and-go shawarma stands to buzzy small-plate affairs.

Photo Courtesy: aviramzohar

When we saw Gal Gadot in line at this nondescript building on Melrose, we knew we had come to the right place. Ta-eem Grill, a bustling spot owned by an Israeli husband-and-wife team, is best known for its chicken shawarma, but other menu items are just as good. Some of our favorites include: the schnitzel, pargiot (grilled chicken thighs), and merguez (spicy Moroccan sausage).

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Shawarma laffa, eggplant, hummus, chicken pargiot, ribeye

Photo Courtesy: foodisabigdeal

Hasiba, a hummusiya (yep, that means hummus specialist), has pita bread down to a science: here it’s at once pillowy and chewy. Seriously, if pita and hummus was all they sold, it’d be enough. Luckily for us, it’s not. This vegetarian Kosher restaurant was dreamt up by the Lodge Bread team, so naturally anything served on or with bread is a good move. Be sure to try the aforementioned hummus (we like it topped with wild mushrooms), and the sabich, a happy marriage of fried eggplant and crispy potatoes in sandwich form. The house-made pickles are crazy good too.

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Sabich sandwich, wild mushroom hummus, falafel sandwich, cauliflower, shakshuka

Photo Courtesy: Bavel

Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis (the masterminds behind Bestia) struck gold a second time with Bavel, a downtown oasis where Middle Eastern flavors meet California cool. Although it can be a bit tricky to secure a reservation, your persistence will be rewarded with truly-stunning decor, imaginative dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients, and an excellent wine list — lots of natty options here. Rich foliage dangles from the high ceilings, and small plates range from smoky oyster mushroom kebabs to lamb neck shawarma served on top of flatbread with tahini and fermented cabbage.

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Foie gras halva, hummus, grilled oyster mushrooms, any of the flatbreads, slow-roasted lamb neck shawarma

Photo Courtesy: sgpgirl

Look past the questionable choice in branding (the employees wear scrubs), and the strip mall location (that’s par for the course in LA), and head straight toward the shawarma rotisserie at Dr. Sandwich, where glistening beef is shaved off the spit as it rotates in front of your eyes. If red meat isn’t really your thing, don’t worry, the falafel and chicken shawarma are just as tempting. Wrapped up in pita or lafa (a Sephardic flatbread), or on a platter with sides like baba ghanoush and cucumber salad, there’s something for everyone at this fast-casual spot.

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Falafel, babaganoush, grilled pargit, spicy skhug, veggie baguette

Photo Courtesy: alizajsokolow

A collaboration between Madcapra’s chefs and the Joint Venture restaurant group (Jon & Vinny’s, Animal, Trois Mec, etc), Kismet was bound to be a success. Add to that pedigree healthyish, photogenic fare, and a light-filled space decorated with blonde wood and plenty of plants, and it’s no wonder that this all-day destination has been one of LA’s hottest tables since opening. Farmers-market-fresh produce and warm spices combine for some seriously-magical dishes; be sure to try both the barbari and flaky breads (now is not the time to go low-carb), the shakshuka, and Persian cucumbers with rosewater labneh and za’atar. Pair it all with a bottle of pet-nat or orange wine, and you’ll be smiling from ear to ear.

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Lemony chicken & pine nut pies, jeweled crispy rice, hen of the woods mushrooms

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