Souk & Sandwich (117 6th Avenue; 212-625-3982) is a hole-in-the-wall eatery (with a tiny counter and just a few stools) sitting at the corner of Watts Street and 6th Avenue, its menu a unique offering of Lebanese culinary experience. Dishes here showcase a different side of Lebanese cuisine. Owner Tarik Fallous’s aim was to give customers an experience of more than just falafel and hummus; “I wanted to introduce other dishes, or other flavors that are not known as much in the states,” Fallous tells the Voice.
Fallous says that, like his first restaurant Au Za’atar, Souk & Sandwich is “a family restaurant, a family experience.” But the two present different perspectives on Lebanese fare; Au Za’atar serves Arabian-French, or Levantine cuisine; and Souk & Sandwich, on the other hand, is a more personal offering from Fallous; “the way my mother and my grandmother makes the food — just exactly the same flavor that we eat at home.”
Fallous opened Au Za’atar in 2014, and Souk & Sandwich in March of this year. Though he’s been in the States 21 years, he never really thought to open a restaurant before — cooking is just something he loved. “I enjoyed cooking, but I didn’t think I’d be cooking for two or 300 people. I thought I’d cook for me and my family every now and then, a couple of small dishes. but then seeing people enjoy the food and being able to introduce some dishes that are not very well known was interesting and exciting,” Fallous says.
The arnabeet mekle sandwich ($7.50), for instance, perhaps has a flavor that most people aren’t accustomed to; with marinated cauliflower that has a resoundingly sour taste from the Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar. The cauliflower is tender and charred tasting, with cilantro and tahini accentuating the tanginess of the za’atar. The tahini, unfortunately, isn’t evenly distributed throughout the sandwich, but does makes a significant appearance at the end.
Different variations of rekakat jebneh ($6.50) appear throughout the Middle East and the former Ottoman Empire. The dish features a blend of five cheeses stuffed inside phyllo pastry dough, and look similar to an egg roll. The outside is extremely crunchy and flaky, but biting into the egg roll-shaped orbs reveals a pungent, salty mixture of gooey cheeses.
Souk & Sandwich’s spicy hummus ($5.50) is not for the faint of heart — the spice might be overwhelming for a novice. The hummus is paired with a thin, crepe-like pita bread, which is typical to what’s eaten in Lebanese homes.
Another uncommon sandwich that Souk & Sandwich serves is the hindbi sandwich ($8.50), filled with sautéed chicory roots, caramelized onion and pickles. In addition to sandwiches, the eatery serves vegetarian entrees in the evenings, like waraa einab ($15), which includes stuffed grape leaves with rice, tomatoes, and Lebanese salad; and a traditional moussaka, which is sautéed eggplant cooked with tomatoes, green peppers and chickpeas, and served with vermicelli rice.