Oh hummus, we’ve hurt you so much. The staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, made with humble chickpeas, olive oil and tahini, has never deserved to be made into a ‘brownie batter’ flavor. But the many ways hummus has entered our daily lives have also brought us closer to other flavors from countries like Greece, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Iran and many more. .
Once nearly impossible to find in Sonoma County – or even outside of major cities or pockets of immigrant communities – spices like saffron, sumac, cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric are increasingly common. in local dishes. Tzatziki sits next to an onion dip at Trader Joe’s. Pitas are just as popular filled with peanut butter and jelly as they are with falafel.
With several newcomers to Middle Eastern restaurants appearing on the local culinary scene, it seemed time to honor some of our favorite places for hummus and the many other dishes of this vast culinary landscape. And while lumping the rich cuisines of every region and country under one banner is as silly as saying that American food is all about burgers, hot dogs, and apple pie, it all has to start with a common thread that runs through it. is universally understood.
So we’ll plant a flag with hummus and take it from there, because everyone loves good hummus. In addition to some of the best bets, each restaurant will get a hummus score of 1 (not great) to 5 (great). And we promise that no brownie batter hummus will be included.
Boro Baba: In April, I waited almost two hours to sample the “modern Persian cuisine” at this pop-up restaurant, almost giving up as the night grew colder and colder. It was really worth it. The kebabs are their signature, and our favorite was the Joojeh kebab, with saffron-marinated yogurt chicken with basmati rice and roasted tomatoes. What really brought it home, however, were the sides, like the Shirazi salad with refreshing cucumber, tomato, pickled red onion, and herb dressing; or try the feta with a salad of spicy fennel and pickled baby almonds. No hummus on the menu. Watch for pop-ups to come to eatborobaba.com.
Grill Santa Rosa: Ignore the boring name, because there is a lot to like here. We lived up to our expectations for this recent addition to Santa Rosa Plaza (the old Rubio’s), but were surprised with the well-designed dishes. Opt for the cold plate of mezze, a sample of hummus, baba ganoush (roasted eggplant dip), tabbouleh, tzatziki, dolmas and crispy falafel. It’s big enough for sharing. Also try the lamb gyroscope. Hummus: 4.1016 Santa Rosa Plaza, Santa Rosa, grillsantarosa.com
Falafel hut: This longtime San Rafael favorite just opened in downtown Santa Rosa (in the former Gerard’s Paella location). The falafel is tasty, and we loved the kibbie (ground lamb and bulgur with a sweet cinnamon spice). Things are still moving forward so we won’t be too hard on the really good chicken shawarma which could be improved with more seasoning. Hummus: 3,701 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, falafelhut.co
King Falafel: This hidden gem is possibly the best spot for falafel in Sonoma County. It’s exactly the kind of no-frills restaurant that focuses on what it does best: falafel. Go for the King falafel where you can choose toppings such as pickles, eggplant, tahini, red shatta, tzatziki or tabbouleh. Hummus: 4. 100 Brown St. 150, Sevastopol
Sam’s Mediterranean: You won’t stumble upon this off-the-beaten-path grocery store unless you spend a lot of time browsing quiet office parks in search of lunch spots with holes in the wall. Luckily I do, and this lovely little place is a Middle Eastern treasure. Their panini-style chicken shawarma wraps are a delicious entry point, with slightly spicy meat and melted cheese. It is accompanied by garlic and hot sauces and a Greek salad. Hummus: 4.613 Martin Ave., Suite 111, Rohnert Park, samsmeddeli.com
Real donor: Here’s another wonder that has stood the test of time. We especially love the doner wraps – long rolls of lavash bread with sliced meat or kebab tucked inside. We also love the Pink Sultan, a roasted beetroot and yogurt dip. Hummus: 5.307 F St., Petaluma, realdoner.net
More than from the Middle East
Fourth Street Market and Grocery Store: This local sandwich shop makes an average tabbouleh, and it’s the only place I’ve found for mujadara, an addicting dish of lentils and caramelized onions. Hummus: 4.300 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, quarterstreetdeli.com
East West Café: I have often overlooked this local charmer after a few long-standing disappointments. Lately, however, I’ve been really impressed with the chicken shawarma and the veggie mezze platter. Hummus: 4.557 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa and 128 North Main St., Sebastopol, eastwestcafesantarosa.com
Stockhome: Swedish cuisine here also includes influences from Turkish street food common in Sweden, but part of the menu sets aside meatballs and lingonberries for kebabs, pita-wrapped falafels, fattoush salad, and rice au saffron. The eggplant dip is out of this world, and the grilled halloumi pita is just as amazing. Hummus: 5. 220 Western Ave., Petaluma, stockhomepetaluma.com
Pearl: This chef-run restaurant takes inspiration from the flavors of the Middle East and turns them into memorable meals. The dishes change, but the picnic plate with tabbouleh, hummus, labneh and fresh pita is a must. We also love the Persian meatball tagine with herb yogurt, lamb burger and shakshuka, a brunch dish with spicy tomato stew and eggs. Moroccan rice pudding is a perfect and fragrant ending. Hummus: 5.500 First St., Petaluma, pearlpetaluma.com
Grossman: This Jewish-style grocery store focuses on a wide variety of food, from latkes to zhug. We love the nuanced falafels that don’t hit the stomach like a bomb, the artichokes with labneh and sumac, the quinoa tabbouleh and, yes I repeat it because I eat so much, the Sabich platter with fried eggplant, falafel, tahina and amba, a sauce made from marinated mangoes. Hummus: 5.308 Wilson St., Santa Rosa, grossmanssr.com
Editor’s Note: Travel, dining, and wine tasting can be tricky right now. Use our inspiring ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, whether it’s this week or next year. If you are visiting restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask, and social distancing.