Top 10 Middle Eastern restaurants in the Twin Cities

Categories: Top 10

gyro.jpg
Get your gyro on
Ah, the cradle of civilization: birthplace of modern agriculture, organized religion, and falafel. The Midwest isn't exactly a Mecca of, well, Mecca-inspired cuisine, but we do have a handful of Middle Eastern restaurants here in the Twin Cities worth seeking out when those kabob cravings strike. Here are 10 of our favorites.

See also:

Top 10 street eats in the Twin Cities
Top 10 cupcake shops in the Twin Cities
Top 10 breakfasts in the Twin Cities

khyber-pass-cafe.jpg
10. Khyber Pass Cafe
Right across from Macalester College, Khyber Pass serves Afghan home cooking in classic college-town style--that is, in large portions, with plenty of vegetarian options, in a room that's fancy enough to take your visiting parents to but not so expensive that you couldn't pick up the check with your birthday money. The kabobs of lamb and chicken are always good bets. Vegetarian combination plates with sabzi, fresh spinach cooked with leeks and spices, or kachaloo (curried potatoes) are simple and satisfying. A serviceable wine list, rose-water rice pudding, Afghan green tea with cardamom, and pretty, piped-in Afghan music round out the experience. Add to the fine, inexpensive food Khyber Pass's mellow, homey decor and warm, attentive staff, and you've got all the ingredients for a St. Paul classic.
1571 Grand Avenue, St. Paul; 651.690.0505
Khyber Pass Cafe's website


Caspian Bistro.jpg
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caspian-Bistro/267001870243
9. Caspian Bistro
Caspian Bistro offers Persian-style cuisine tucked away in a warehouse on University Avenue in the U of M area. If you can't find a kabob you like here, you never will. The hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and gyros are crowd-pleasers, with the homemade lemonade and pistachio ice cream adding unique accents to the menu. The Persian rice is fluffy and flavorful, with hints of saffron and plenty of butter, and the kabobs are tender and well-seasoned. The space is airy and bright, with high ceilings and large windows. Caspian boasts an adjoining Persian market, where you can find everything from jars of fig jam to pomegranate paste, among other imported items from Turkey and Iran.
2418 Southeast University Avenue, Minneapolis; 612.623.1113
Caspian Bistro's website


emilys-lebanese.jpg
8. Emily's Lebanese Deli
Tiny and well-worn, this beloved neighborhood spot just northeast of downtown Minneapolis is easy to miss, but it's worth seeking out. The traditional selections, seasoned with a light hand, are delicious. Kibbi--ground beef, cracked wheat, cinnamon, cardamom, onions, and pine nuts--is so fresh it's ordered raw as often as cooked. The kabobs are heady with butter, garlic, and clove. Grape leaves rolled with rice and spiced lamb come with tangy, thick homemade yogurt; hummus bi-tahini is laced with lemon; baba ghanoush packs a garlicky punch; and the tabouli is parsley-mint fresh. Don't skip the baklawa (Lebanese baklava), with its layers of phyllo, butter, walnuts, and honey-rosewater syrup. Entrées are all under $10 and come with tabbouleh and bread. It's perfect for takeout, or, if you want to learn more about the making of kafta (ground beef kabobs), mistah (thick golden bread), or real feta, hang around and eat in. Closed Tuesdays.
641 University Avenue NE, Minneapolis; 612.379.4069
Emily's Lebanese Deli's website


7. Jerusalem's Restaurant
Ever since camels got humps Jerusalem's has been winning local "Best Middle Eastern Restaurant" awards--or at least, it seems that way. Why? The awkwardly charming tented room, which always feels like it's been whipped together for a party just for you. The inexpensive, simple foods perfect both for a quiet vegetarian date (with wine or beer!) or for a super-filling mixed plate of lamb specialties. It's not terrifically fancy or aggressively cutting edge, but that's probably why it's first in so many hearts: Jerusalem's just sits near downtown, year after year, under its funny onion dome, quietly radiating the homey vibe of a place where you can slip off your Birkenstocks and discuss politics, culture, or which came first, the camel or the hump.
1518 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.871.8883
Jerusalem Restaurant's Facebook page


babanis-kurdish-restaurant.jpg
6. Babani's Kurdish Restaurant
The first Kurdish restaurant to open in the United States, Babani's is named for the Babani tribe, whose men were known for their fighting skills and sexual prowess (seriously, it says that on the menu) and whose women were considered kind, forgiving, and exceptionally good at cooking. The menu consists of authentic Kurdish dishes, including chicken tawa (chicken sautéed in lemon and spices and baked in layers of potatoes, green peppers, onions, and dried limes) and Sheik Babani (cored eggplant filled with spicy meat and vegetables). The tangy Dowjic soup made from chicken, yogurt, and lemon juice is a patron favorite that works miracles on a head cold and is credited for "keeping many a Kurdish traveler from wandering too far from home."
544 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651.602.9964
Babani's Kurdish Restaurant's website


Location Info

Saffron Restaurant & Lounge

123 N. 3rd St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Shish

1668 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Holy Land Grocery & Deli

2513 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Beirut Restaurant & Deli

1385 S. Robert St., West St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Crescent Moon Bakery & Restaurant

2339 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Babani's Kurdish Restaurant

544 St. Peter St., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Jerusalem's Restaurant

1518 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Emily's Lebanese Delicatessen

641 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Caspian Bistro

2418 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Khyber Pass Cafe

1571 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
dickgarten
dickgarten

Somewhat of a bogus list and I've tried most of the places on this list.  Caspian Bistro should be in the top 3 if not number 1.  Often we stop by after the Gophers and that Kabidou Kabab hits the spot just right...!!

jas206
jas206

This list needs a revision. I'd recommend removing at least one (won't disclose!) and adding Black Sea.

Noah Hanson
Noah Hanson

Ran into a great one outstate in Willmar. Cafe Persepolis, Persian is most excellent.

Dan Engelhart
Dan Engelhart

Thank you for reminding me about some and introducing me to others. However yeah, the Black Sea is great. Also Marina both locations totally phenomenal. But you know what. I'll keep em to myself. They seem to be doing fine financially. So thanks I guess.

Erica Anderson
Erica Anderson

CP already had a top 10 list of Indian restaurants, Sebastian. BTW...India is viewed as part of southeast Asia. And wikipedia is hardly a credible source since anyone can edit the pages there.

Codi Crooks
Codi Crooks

@SebastianGaldames ...but I don't see any Indian restaurants on the list

Julie Sherman
Julie Sherman

Included in this list should have been Ansari's in Eagan AND The Black Sea in St. Paul!

Neale
Neale

because it happens. awesome article 

sjodecker
sjodecker

@citypages @prodigiouswit check it out!

codi2
codi2

The Black Sea on Snelling across from Hamline!!!!!!!!!!!!

prodigiouswit
prodigiouswit

@sjodecker you even changed your name on twitter #goodwife

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...