Every baby and everybody loves hummus. But Middle Eastern food is so much more that that! Don’t let spices and unique ingredients scare you; LA is experiencing a boom is this oft-overlooked cuisine and is overflowing with amazing eats that are actually very kid-friendly. Here are some of the best spots to expand your junior foodie’s palate.
photo: Simon Wheatley via flickr
If you’ve never experienced a Lebanese bakery then you’re in for a delicious treat. This place can only be described as a Middle Eastern version of a family pizza joint. As you walk in, you’re greeted by the warm smell of baking bread and the twangs of Lebanese music. Curious young foodies will love peering over the counter to check out the massive open oven, where the chefs are tossing flatbread dough like a pizza pie, baking next to the slowly rotating slabs of beef and chicken shawarma.
What To Order: You can’t go wrong with the Cheese Saj, which is cheese topped flatbread. Order it Boreg, which just means folded over like a Lebanese-style quesadilla. The falafel and shawarma are also excellent choices, to get some protein into your babes. Definitely splurge for dessert and order the Saj Choco Bas, the same fresh-made flatbread dough, but tossed thin, like a crepe, and folded over, with slices of banana and creamy Nutella inside.
11146 Balboa Blvd.
Kobee Factory and Syrian Kitchen
With all the recent news about refugees, your kids might be curious about Syria. One of best ways to learn more about another culture is by trying the food. This place serves up the best authentic, home-style Syrian staples, in a bright and casual cafe that’s very inviting to young eaters.
What To Order: Don’t miss the restaurant’s namesake, kobee (pronounced kibbeh), which is a dish made of bulgur and seasoned, finely ground meat. (Think the tastiest mini burger patty they’ve ever had.) Order the barbecue version, which is grilled, and served with a salad, but you can also add on some kid-pleasing fries. A bowl of the fresh made hummus to share is an absolute must. Coffee loving grown-ups will definitely want a cup of the very strong Middle Eastern-style coffee that packs just the right wallop so you won’t need a nap after this belly-filling meal.
14110 Oxnard Blvd.
photo: Momed’s facebook page
This restaurant serves fresh, modernized Middle Eastern dishes influenced by several different regions, like Lebanon, Israel and Turkey. The paired-down spin on traditional recipes makes the exotic flavors and ingredients of the Middle East a lot more kid-friendly. Kids recognize spins on classics, like a burger made with the more Middle Eastern lamb, but still looks like the juicy burger they love. The Beverly Hills location is more of a casual deli, with communal seating and is a central location. But if you make your way to Atwater, we love that location even more, with their open airy space, pet and kid friendly attitude, and spectacular wine, beer and cocktail listings.
What To Order: Momed serves breakfast, in addition to lunch and dinner, so if the mood strikes for a unique family brunch, don’t miss the Challah French Toast and for the parents in need of a Java boost, try the Turkish Latte. If you’re visiting for the lunch or dinner hours, the avocado hummus is a must and the zucchini fritters are a fun, finger-food option. Kids love the warm pillowy pita bread, and everyone will flip for Baklava bread pudding for dessert.
Locations in Beverly Hills and Atwater Village, check the website for hours and address.
This newcomer to the LA food scene is a fast casual chain serving up a health-conscious, farm-to-table mixture of several Middle Eastern eats, including Greek, Lebanese, Turkish and Moroccan. The Chipotle-style line service makes it perfect for young eaters who like to see all the food options before they order. Building your own plates makes it easy to customize meals exactly how kids like it. Parents will love that Yalla is all about presenting healthy options in a fun way.
What To Order: This is the only place on our list that actually has an official kids menu and it’s a great one; all at once healthy, familiar and a little adventurous. Your hungry tykes can choose between falafel or skewers of chicken, steak or salmon. The meal comes with rice, fries and a choice of sides, including hummus.
9516 Culver Blvd.
If you want a full Middle Eastern restaurant experience, from ambiance to eats, then check out this family-run Lebanese favorite that’s easily one of the best in LA. Your curious kids will love investigating the decor of scimitars that hang on the walls and the bright exterior that is sure to remind them of a big top, circus tent. The boisterous dining hall is always lively and the perfect volume for a sit down meal with little diners.
What To Order: Sample a little of everything, family-style, with the Carousel Feast. It offers an array of kid-friendly items, like hummus and Boreg (flatbread with cheese), alongside some more unique options that might entice your young eaters to try some new flavors. And there should be enough to bring home, so you don’t have to make lunch the next day.
Locations in Hollywood and Glendale, check the website for hours and address.
It’s All Good House of Kebab
If you want some great Persian food, you could certainly hit any one of the restaurants that line the Tehrangeles section of Westwood Boulevard, but many of those spots decked out in gleaming gold decor and and “fancy” cloth napkins might feel a little too stuffy with young kids in tow. Instead, check out this kitschy, hole-in-the-wall in Reseda that dishes up some of the best kebab in all of LA. The kids will love peering at all the tchotchkes, like old records and antique tea sets, that line the walls as you wait for your food and smell the mouthwatering aroma wafting over the front counter from the open grill.
What To Order: This place is a straight up kebab-only joint, but you still have a few options. If your little foodies like beef then go for the melt in your mouth kabob koubideh (aka ground beef). Also the, chicken kabob (boneless white meat chicken) is very tender. If you visit on a Saturday or Sunday, try the biryani, a ground lamb patty served on flatbread, a house specialty.
6800 Reseda Blvd.
If your young diners are comfortable at fancier digs, this more upscale restaurant is definitely family-friendly and worth breaking out your best table manners for, as it’s easily one of the best Persian restaurants on the Westside. For a more casual atmosphere, hit this place at lunch time, when the portions are also a little smaller for kid-sized appetites.
What To Order: You can’t go wrong with the kabob, either the marinated chicken or the ground beef. If your little eaters are up for being adventurous, try the tadig, crispy rice topped with your choice of Persian stew. Save room for some sweets, like the Zulbia, Persian-style funnel cake.
12130 Santa Monica Blvd.
photo: Cameron M. via Yelp
The Great Greek
This isn’t purely Middle Eastern, but Greet food shares many Mediterranean flavors and is such fun we couldn’t skip it. There’s nothing like live entertainment to keep kids at the table long enough to enjoy a delicious meal, and The Great Greek is about as lively as it gets. The kids will love watching the dancers and live musicians play rousing Greek music as they chow down on hummus and moussaka. The best part is, this rocking restaurant is so noisy that even the loudest little ones will fit right in. We definitely recommend making a reservation in advance to avoid waiting, especially on weekends.
What To Order: Kid pleasers include the keftethes, or Greek-style meatballs, brown butter pasta and the vegetarian combo platter, which includes a smattering of favorites like hummus, tzatziki that pairs perfectly with the bottomless basket of pita bread. Not to be missed is the saganaki cheese appetizer, which is served en flambé, a sight your little food adventurers won’t soon forget.
13362 Ventura Blvd.
What are some of your favorite Middle Eastern restaurants? Share any we missed in the comments!