In the East Village, Middle Eastern Like Mama Used to Make

Mom's in the kitchen at Au Za'atar, and owner Tarik Fallous couldn't be happier. Fallous's mother is cooking the Lebanese food he grew up with, as well as a pan-regional menu of dishes from around the Middle East and North Africa. Grilled baby lamb chops seasoned with za'atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend that gives the month-old restaurant its name, are a highlight, Pookipichu writes on Chowhound, as is Tunisian-style Couscous Royal with lamb, chicken, and well-seasoned, nicely charred house-made merguez. (One misfire, she reports, is unbalanced, "relentlessly smoky" baba ghanoush.)

Much of the menu is devoted to a long list of vegetarian mezze—salads, dips, flatbreads, vegetable moussaka, and more, though omnivores can sample some of those plates alongside kebabs and merguez in a grab-bag Au Za'atar Platter (pictured) for two or four diners. And as Au Za'atar bills itself as an "Arabian French bistro," the Middle Eastern choices are joined by steak frites, frisée aux lardons, and onion soup topped with melted Gruyère.

Au Za'atar [East Village]
188 Avenue A (at E. 12th Street), Manhattan
212-254-5660

Photo from Au Za'atar