Great Middle Eastern food in Halifax

Nothing says Halifax like a late-night donair or falafel sandwich enjoyed with friends at about 2 am on a downtown street corner. That might come as a surprise to outsiders who don’t realize how much the city’s culinary scene owes to Middle Eastern food. And Haligonians might also be surprised at the range and variety of Middle Eastern food available around town.

Tarek's Cafe

1
3045 Robie St, Halifax, NS B3K 4P6

Tucked away in a strip mall just off the intersection of Robie and Young, Tarek’s is a North End lunchtime institution. Service is very casual: Pick your seat from the very random assortment of chairs in the sunny dining area, and they’ll call you when your food is ready. No need to choose between the beef and chicken shawarma (sandwich or plate), you can order a half-and-half here (and should). There’s also complimentary soup to sip while you wait.

Mid-East Food Centre

2
2595 Agricola St, Halifax, NS B3K 4C4

If you’re unfamiliar with Middle Eastern Food, the MEFC at North and Agricola is a great place to start. It combines a small takeout with the grocery store equivalent of Aladdin’s cave, so you can try any number of classic dishes and then buy the ingredients to make your own. The takeaway food is inexpensive, and portions are large. Try the fatayer (meat pies) and salads, and don’t forget a few stuffed cookies for later.

Chef Abod Cafe

3
3217 Kempt Rd, Halifax, NS B3K 4X2

You wouldn’t expect to find a Saudi Prince’s former personal chef slinging shawarma next to a Kempt Road car dealership, but that’s a for-real entry on chef Abod Sadieh’s resume. The slow-cooked mandi (lamb shank) here is memorable, and the “Syrian ravioli” (shish barak) isn’t something you eat every day. Save room for the desserts displayed in a glass case at the end of the long dining room. Try the basbousa or the cheese-filled kanafeh pastry.

Efendy Turkish & Mediterranean Grill

4
1569 Dresden Row, Halifax, NS B3J 2K4

Efendy’s Dresden Row space – the longtime home of fine-dining restaurant Fid – is a beautiful space with hardwood floors, exposed brick and lots of rich colour. The food, almost all of it grilled over charcoal in the open kitchen, is just as elegant. The mains are heartbreakingly good. Try the kusneme, though it might take a few visits just to make it through the selection of hot and cold mezze first.

Aleppo Café

5
1496 Lower Water Street, Halifax, NS B3J 1R9

The waterfront location in Brewery Market makes Aleppo a good choice for a pita wrap when you’re strolling the harbour’s attractions. There are some unconventional options alongside the usual shawarma and kofte – chicken taco? Philly steak? – but it all works, and that’s just how they roll. The interior is utilitarian, but the food is unpretentiously good and shows some definite love. The daily lunch buffet is a spectacular bargain and might be the freshest and tastiest in the city.

Catering Noblemay

6
1701 Barrington St, Halifax, NS B3J 2A4

If your taste buds were shaped by the Lebanese versions, you’ll find the Syrian take on kibbe and other Mediterranean standards at Baba Ghanouj to be subtly but enjoyably different. Located on the south end of Barrington, across from Dal’s engineering campus, the café features a spacious dining area with lots of room between tables. The food is skillfully crafted and largely vegetarian. Try the dips and flatbreads, or settle in for the buffet and enjoy a bit of everything.

Aladdin Shisha Lounge

7
746 Bedford Hwy, Halifax, NS B3M 2L9

Located opposite Clearwater Seafoods on Bedford Highway, Aladdin stands out for more than its vivid purple exterior. Most of the city’s Middle Eastern restaurants are utilitarian spaces, but Aladdin’s dining room is a full-on Arabian Nights experience, from the decor to the music. Seating includes tables, banquettes and booths, all arranged to maximize social interaction. The four-skewer mixed grill is large enough to share, and you can finish the night gathered amiably around the tobacco-free shisha, or hookah.

SAJ House

8
19 Alma Cres, Halifax, NS B3N 2C4

Issa’s Saj House cookery is built around flatbreads called ma’noosh – think of them as Lebanese pizza – and that’s what you’ll find at Issa’s. Try the ma’noosh b’zaatar khoudra, topped with fresh tomato, olives and mint. It’s even better with added labneh, or yogurt cheese. The restaurant is wedged into the corner of a strip mall on Alma Crescent alongside the Al-Arz bakery, and the small seating area is light and airy.

Ray's Falafel Lebanese Cuisine

9
101-75 Akerley Blvd, Halifax, NS B3B 1J7

No Middle Eastern roundup would be complete without Ray’s, which helped “Leban-ize” Haligonians for years at its former Scotia Square location. The restaurant is now on Akerley Blvd in Burnside, between Burnside Drive and Joe Zatzman, but the falafel sandwiches are just as good and Ray is personable as always. Oh, and there's a Bayer’s Lake ray’s location as well.

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