Warm aromas fill the around the plates as they arrive, just begging for that first bite. Cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cloves … the addicting spice of this wholesome cuisine means that once you start, you won’t be able to stop. Luckily, the Twin Cities have more than a couple fantastic Middle Eastern restaurants where you can get your fix. Here are some of the very best.
Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant
544 St Peter St.
St Paul, MN 55155
With the claim of being the nation’s first Kurdish restaurant, Babani’s has sat quietly in downtown St. Paul serving up classics like chicken tawa, and that to-die-for dowjic soup. No wine or beer, just awesome food. The savory flavors, slow roasted meats, stewed veggies, the slight spice that rises into the air and fills the whole restaurant. It’s also very reasonably-priced, perfect for a cheap date, quick lunch or especially to warm up on a cold winter day.
2513 Central Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
The lunch buffet at this Northeast Minneapolis mainstay will redefine the way you look at lunch. It’s hard to find a better gyro than the one made here, but just about everything you’ll find here is tasty and delicious. The slow-cooked goodness coming from the clay ovens, the beautiful meat spinning slowly rotisserie-style, and some of the best hummus (which you can take with you to-go from the grocery) will make for an unforgettable midday meal.
Beirut Restaurant Lebanese Cuisine & Deli
1385 Robert St S.
West St Paul, MN 55118
An unassuming storefront down Robert Street in West St. Paul hides some truly amazing flavors. Kabobs are the specialty here, with tender lamb, chicken, or beef skewered with roasted vegetables that are both delicious and fun to eat. Platters are available for large groups (this is a great place to come with the whole family), and there are plenty of vegetarian options as well for those not into the meat thing (though they’re missing out here). A good wine list and occasional belly-dancing round out a great restaurant just outside St. Paul.
Related: Best Gyros In Minnesota
737 Snelling Ave. N.
St Paul, MN 55104
Serving up doner (the Turkish equivalent of a gyro) at incredibly reasonably prices, Black Sea has been serving the students and staff at Hamline University across the street for years … and everyone else who knows about this fantastic little hole-in-the-wall. It’s a small restaurant (you might have to wait a while during peak hours) that doesn’t accept credit cards, but it’s the type of dining experience you look for when you want authentic cuisine. These are classic recipes that make one of the most satisfying meals in the Twin Cities. With a second location in White Bear Lake, the east metro is well-served with the best Turkish food in the state.
123 3rd St. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
While the rest of the entries on this list are more mom-and-pop, family-recipe type places (and that is a great thing), Saffron sets itself apart as the award-winning, chef-driven concept from brothers Saed and Sameh Wadi looking to elevate the cuisine to new heights. You’ll find here creative spins on fine-dining staples like the figs and foie gras, roasted chicken, fantastic seafood and some of the finest hummus you’re likely to have this far west.
Related: Best Mediterranean Food In Minnesota
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.