The Best Middle Eastern Restaurants around Boston Right Now
Load up on kebabs, shawarma, and small plates with big flavors from an Israeli standby, a downtown newcomer, and more.
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Seeking herb-laden falafel smothered with tzatziki? How about a pita overstuffed with spicy chicken shawarma? Luckily, we’ve got a wealth of local restaurants serving all sorts of mezze, kabobs, and other Middle Eastern cuisine. From traditional Turkish delights to inspired reimaginings of cuisine throughout the region, use this guide as a road map to finding your fill of super-fresh fattoush, honey-soaked baklava, and more.
If Chipotle sported a caftan on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, the result might look something like this local mini-chain’s buildable bowls, heaped with beef or lamb shawarma, vegan falafel, and more on beds of fluffy rice or greens. You can also pick a pita for stuffing—perhaps with spicy chicken shawarma, house-made hummus, cucumber-heavy fattoush, and fries. Don’t sleep on the baklava, either, which is a bite of heavenly honey- and pistachio-packed bliss.
57 Boston Wharf Rd., Boston, 857-250-4903; 100 Federal Street Atrium, Boston, 617-936-3005, 605 W. Kendall St., Cambridge, 617-252-0707, aceitunagrill.com.
Like to keep your options open? Head here. After all, the most fun thing about Anoush’ella is trying a million different mezze to pair with the spot’s flaky and thin m’anoush flatbread. Savor the smoky baba ganoush dotted with eggplant seeds, the parsley-zinging tabbouleh, and the tangy labne yogurt that can be topped with flavorful combos of walnut harissa and feta, tomato and mint, and more. On the sweet side, meanwhile, you’ll find a similarly loaded s’mores flatbread covered in Nutella, graham cracker, and marshmallows. It absolutely raises the bar on the classic campfire craving.
35 W. Newton St., Boston, 857-265-3195; 401 Park Drive (Time Out Market), Boston, anoushella.com.
Just ask the legion of Northeastern students who count this spot as a de facto dining hall: Not only is Boston Shawarma reasonably priced and delicious, but you’re bound to be in and outta here with a full belly in fifteen minutes flat. The fresh, halal meats include ribbons of tender shawarma and soujok, or beef and lamb sausages, that are served sizzling and right off the grill. But it’s also worth getting the kibbeh, or ground beef laden with spices and bulgur wheat. And whether you’re popping in between classes or just on your jaunt home from work, assign yourself the task of picking up the A-plus rice-stuffed grape leaves, which have just the right amount of lemony lift.
315 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-670-0460, boston-shawarma.com.
Sure, this JP spot has all the favorites you’d expect, like beef kabobs and herb-packed falafel. But vegetarians especially know to come here for the halloumi—a dense Lebanese cheese that you can savor as a shish kabob, as the central protein in a garden halloumi wrap that sings with a za’atar vinaigrette, and other preparations. A special treat for vegans, too, is the seitan shawarma, which sees slivers of the gluten-based meat substitute spiced with coriander, cumin, and lemon oil.
654 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-553-1163, cafebeirutjp.com.
The Chicken & Rice Guys
I have to believe there’s a special corner in heaven where you can bathe in the garlic sauce whipped up by the Chicken & Rice Guys, Boston’s halal street-food truck turned local mini-chain. Here on the mortal plane, though, the optimal way to enjoy the creamy concoction—besides, frankly, sipping it like a shot from one of the to-go sauce containers—is on a pile of seasoned yellow rice and crisp-edged chunks of lamb and beef gyro. That said, part of the mouth-watering magic here comes from ordering a rice plate for dousing with any number of sauces in the mix, including a barbecue-style sauce and a zippy combo of mint, cilantro, and jalapeño. Luckily, the generous helpings of rice are served with palate-cooling shredded lettuce and plenty of toasted pita points for dipping.
85 Bedford St., Boston; 280 Washington St., Boston; 79 Ferry St., Everett, 617-903-8538, cnrguys.com.
Helmand shares its name with the longest river in Afghanistan, and hones in on the cuisine of that country, which is informed by its location at the crossroads of Central Asia and the Middle East. At this Cambridge landmark, meanwhile, much of the menu is based around the wood-burning oven where the flatbread is baked. And oh, that bread: It’s warm and soft, able to serve as a pillow for racks of marinated lamb or as a cozy jacket for heaps of palaw rice spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more. Date- and walnut-studded rice, meanwhile, is served alongside the standout ma-he berian special of pan-fried trout and eggplant.
143 First St., Cambridge, 617-492-4646, helmandrestaurant.com.
Koshari Mama, which opened in late 2019 at Somerville’s Bow Market courtyard, is a rare Boston-area spot dedicated to the cuisine of Egypt, which serves as a geographic and culinary link between Africa and the Middle East. Specifically, you’ll find vegan street food in the form of boldly flavored Koshari bowls—chickpea and deep-fried onion-topped layers of lentils, rice, and pasta. These beauties come in sizes from eight to 32 ounces, and are best enjoyed with the Spicy Mama sauce, a blazing vinegar-based condiment with powerful garlic.
Bow Market Way, Somerville, 617-229-9230, kosharimama.com.
Since 1990, diners have raved about Rami’s, which showcases Israeli cuisine with dishes like crispy falafel, turkey shawarma, and garlicky hummus (which you can and should buy by the pound). Perhaps the most beautiful part of the bountiful menu, though, (besides the enormous homemade pita loaded with baba ganoush and falafel as another standout) are the bourekas, or puff pastries stuffed with spinach, potato, mushroom, and more, served by the piece or as part of combo plates with a salad.
324 Harvard St, Brookline, 617-738-357, ramisboston.com.
Inspired by Turkey’s meyhanes, or traditional bars and restaurants, Sarma sings with small plates that you’re meant to share with companions over drinks. Chef and co-owner Cassie Piuma delights with Eastern Mediterranean- and Middle Eastern-inspired fare—see the house gyro bread with Lebanese olive oil and za’taar, lamb kofte sliders with suman onion—and she’s not afraid to get creative with ingredients and inspirations. Consider the piri piri octopus, served with black-eyed peas, coconut, okra and the traditional herby spice mix of dukkah. Piuma came up under legendary local chef and Sarma co-owner Ana Sortun, and Sortun’s elder sibling spots Oleana (home to a terrific patio) and Sofra Bakery & Cafe (specializing in Middle Eastern pastries) remain wonderful in their own right, as well.
249 Pearl St., Somerville, 617-764-4464, sarmarestaurant.com.
Relative newcomer Servia opened downtown in October 2020 after a few delays, though the collection of modern Middle Eastern fare is well worth the wait. With a sprawling menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can’t go wrong with any of the shareable plates, from the silky moussaka with a ragout of beef, lamb, and pork, finished off with a creamy béchamel sauce, to simple mezze such as olives with feta, citrus zest, and spices. Owing to chef Claudio Cavalerri’s Italian background, the fare also flirts with fusion cuisine: Take the “pitza”—a pita and pizza lovechild—made of ancient black grain and topped off with goodies. The spicy sausage take, for one, features kicking merguez lamb sausage with house-made tomato sauce and tangy kashar cheese.
126 State St., Boston, 617-936-3396, serviaboston.com.