Za’atar Brings a Feast of the Middle East to the West Village


Greenwich Avenue has gotten a crop of new eateries recently. Whitehall, the new Brit-influenced spot from the team behind Highlands, is getting lots of buzz, but if it’s cheap eats you’re after, you’re better off checking out new Middle Eastern spot Za’atar (50 Greenwich Avenue, 212-242-3451). The small shop sells the standard roster of falafel, salads, and grilled meat plates, not to mention a selection of different types of flaky baklava.

We popped in for a quick vegetarian lunch and ordered a falafel with hummus ($5, though it was advertised as $3 in the window) and fattoush salad ($7). Although service was on the slow side since only one person was running the whole operation, from assembling plates to taking orders to receiving incoming food shipments, the falafel was warm and crispy, but with a soft interior and a mild peppery finish. Toppings included lettuce, tomato, cucumber salad, and tahini, and were all crunchy, though the tomatoes slightly hard (it is nearly December, after all). It’s hard not to compare the falafel with Taïm, located just a few blocks away, which is one of our favorite falafels in the city. The chickpea balls don’t quite equal the ones there, which are so light and chock-full of herbs, but they are still better than at the other local Village favorite, Mamoun’s, which can be grainy. Definitely worth checking out the fried chickpea balls here if you happen to be nearby or are on a falafel crawl.

The fattoush salad was enormous, and it was decent, though we were hoping for more sumac flavor, and we would have also liked the veggies (tomato, cucumber, lettuce, onion) and fried pita-bread chips to be in larger pieces. The dressing ran a little too salty for comfort, but given that fattoush is one of our favorite salads, it’s always nice to chance upon a new spot that sells it, no matter how it tastes. We washed it down with a cup of hot spiced Damascus tea ($2).

Grilled lamb, chicken, and kofta kebabs are also available, served in sandwiches (alongside baba ganoush, tzatziki, hummus, or grape leaves) or as platters, which come with rice and salad. Prices for most sandwiches are around $5, while platters range from $7 to $9, and both sit-down and takeout are available. It’s nearly lunch time: time for a Middle East feast, perhaps?