Au Za’atar is a unique French Lebanese restaurant on the corner of Avenue A and 12th Street in the East Village. The fusion of these two countries’ delicious cuisines was enough to peak our interest, and their extensive menu really sealed the deal. A true family-run restaurant on a busy East Village street, we opted for outdoor seating to enjoy people watching and the great weather, but the inside was divine too. Covered in wood, with romantic lighting and a sizable bar, in the colder months we would certainly enjoy dining indoors. We would also recommend this spot for large parties, as there is space to push tables together, and this would truly be the best way to experience all the appetizers on Au Za’atars menu.
Fortunately for us, the staff at Au a’atar wanted us to try everything. We happily obliged, and were not disappointed in a single dish. Minutes after being seated we were served a huge pitcher of refreshing sangria and labne covered in the namesake Za’atar spice blend. We made the mistake of eating all of it immediately because we were hungry and it was amazing, but we (unbeknownst to us) had plates and plates of food headed our way and we didn’t need to fill up on pita. Next we were served hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli salad, and fried cauliflower. All of it made to order (as is their signature) with fresh and delicious flavors. The babe ganoush was a bit lemony, which was different though welcomed. We piled it high on top of warm pita triangles and topped with tabouli. The tabouli was more parsley, less bulgur which made it far fresher than you usually find at other Mediterranean eateries. The true highlight for us, however, was the fried cauliflower. Honestly, we could’ve eaten a few bowls of this stuff and been thoroughly satisfied. When you come to Au Za’atar, if you don’t order this dish, you are missing out. Soft, buttery, and lemony with a crunchy exterior, it was our favorite dish of the night.
Next, our server brought back plates of mujadara (delicious lentils topped with yummy friend onions), batata harra (spicy potatoes that were melt-in-your mouth), spiced eggplant mousaka, and spicy sautéed green beans. We loved how light and homemade everything tasted. It was the perfect mesh of tempting appetizers, but all with very obviously fresh ingredients. We loved getting to try everything, and suggest that you do the same! Next we were brought mini spinach pies, balls of breaded bulgur and lamb balls that were truly a delight.
As if we hadn’t stuffed our faces enough, we were served a huge plate of vegetable stuffed with a seasoned rice blend. Eggplant, grape leaves, squash, peppers and cabbage provided flavorful cradles for their amazing rice. Filled to the brim, we could not have possibly eaten more, however there were a ton of other menu items that sounded great to us. A fig and crème fraiche crostini sounded divine, their extensive Lebanese cheese list looked exquisite, and their variety of couscous, meat, and fish entrees had something to please any palate.
The restaurant also just debuted a new brunch menu, which makes it an even more appealing local spot! We recommend grabbing some friends and splitting as many mezes as you can! Thank us later!