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Food recs: Kansas City's best Middle Eastern restaurants

With locations in in Parlor KC and the Ironic District in North Kansas City, Sido's serves Middle Eastern staples like baba ghanoush, hummus and
With locations in Parlor KC and the Ironic District in North Kansas City, Sido's serves Middle Eastern staples like baba ghanoush, hummus and shawarma.

 Middle Eastern food is bright, fresh, and aromatic, and represents a vast geographic region and an array of diverse cuisines. Here’s where to find the metro’s best shawarma, falafel, baba ghanoush and so much more.

For Palestinian-American Samantha Salem, food has always been a love language.

Salem calls Kansas City home now, but she became a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine in Gaza, where her grandmother taught her how to cook traditional dishes made with locally-grown, in-season ingredients.

“They have to be fresh, they have to be fully ripe, and stuff like that,” Salem told KCUR’s Up To Date. “So that's why it just comes out with such a better flavor.”

“And obviously the love aspect makes it just taste so much better,” she says.

Kansas City Magazine food editor and restaurant critic Tyler Shane says Middle Eastern food incorporates lots of spices and fresh herbs, like sumac, cardamom, parsley and mint.

“And that goes pretty much across the board with your meats and your rice and in your sauces,” she says. “It is just incredibly aromatic and flavorful.”

Below, Salem and Shane recommend their favorite Middle Eastern restaurants — and a few markets, too — to indulge in the rich flavors of the Mediterranean.

Tyler Shane, Kansas City Magazine:

  • KC Grill ‘N Kabob moved to Overland Park during the pandemic, and they pack a daily lunch buffet in the front counter of their new, smaller location. The saffron rice, kabobs, and ghormeh sabzi, an herb stew, are made in-house. Top it off with some charred tomatoes and do like the Persians do: indulge in the raw onions!
  • Baba’s Pantry is a beloved Palestinian deli and grocer that made Bon Appetit’s 10 Best New Restaurants in 2022. Everyone loves their hummus. I love their chicken shawarma, falafel, fattoush salad, and pairing their baklava and Turkish coffee.
  • Clay & Fire is one of my favorite restaurants in KC. It has Turkish and Iranian influences, and sits in an old house on the Westside. Their wood fire hearth gives vegetables, meats and pizzas a delectable char. The “Grandma” pizza is so simple, yet to die for.
  • Yafa Cafe is a Palestinian family-owned-and-operated strip-mall gem in Overland Park serving a Mediterranean menu inspired by Jordan. Great portions and service. I recommend the tabouli salad, the Yafa combo plate and lamb mansaf.
  • KC Doner is a pop-up restaurant offering authentic Turkish cuisine. Their speciality, the Doner Wrap is seasoned beef cooked on a vertical rotisserie, thinly sliced and served in a tortilla. They also serve the Turkish dessert sekerpare, Turkish coffee, meat pies, and more. Their first pop-up is June 20 at Lenexa Public Market.
  • Habashi House’s website claims it’s “home to the best falafel sandwich in town,” and, yes, it really is that good! Pop next door to Al Habashi Mart to stock up on hard-to-find Middle Eastern spices and groceries. Both are owned and run in City Market by the Habashi family.
  • Mediterranean Market is a quick little establishment in Westport with an eatery attached. You can shop for olive oils, olives, and lamb chops, then finish your shopping with a falafel wrap, gyro or baklava.

Samantha Salem:

  • Hummus and Pita is a hidden gem in Overland Park with authentic Arabic staples, amazing staff, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Their hummus and baba ghanoush is to die for. Seriously — if you haven't tried it yet, you're missing out on some creamy, dreamy goodness!
  • Jerusalem Cafe’s gyro plates, kabobs and sampler meals are out of this world. This cozy spot is perfect for a laid-back dining experience, and the menu is packed with all your Arabic food favorites. Their mint lemonade comes in large sizes and is a must in this heat.
  • Sido's, with a location in Parlor KC and the Iron District, is a true foodie haven. Their chicken shawarma wraps are legendary: juicy, marinated chicken bursting with bold Middle Eastern spices, all wrapped in a warm, pillowy flatbread. Perfect for a quick lunch or a late-night snack!
  • Meddy’s upscale vibe with a modern twist on traditional flavors is quickly becoming a local favorite. Menu highlights include the falafel platter, hummus, shawarma wrap and garlic chicken bowl. I love their lamb dishes as well.
  • Queen Sweets & Bakery is where it’s at for a cozy and friendly dining experience. This bakery and restaurant is known for its wide selection of Middle Eastern desserts, especially their fresh kanafeh. With multiple locations around Kansas City, you're never too far from a cheesy sweet treat.
  • Olive Cafe is a unique combo of grocery store and restaurant, making it a one-stop destination for dining and shopping. Enjoy a delicious meal of fresh, homemade falafel sandwich and then pick up specialty ingredients to recreate Middle Eastern recipes at home. Don’t forget a bag of fresh pita bread on your way out — they’re one of the largest suppliers in Kansas City.
  • World Fresh Market in Overland Park is a treasure trove of fresh and diverse international foods, with a special emphasis on Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines. This market is a must-visit for any food lover, and includes unique produce selections, a whole wall of halal gummies and tons of fresh halal meat.

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As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
As a producer for Up To Date, I create sound-rich talk show segments about the individuals and communities that call Kansas City home. Whether it’s a poet, a business owner or a local lawmaker, I seek out diverse voices to help break down the biggest stories of the day. After listening to the show, I want Up To Date listeners to feel informed and empowered to make decisions in their daily lives. You can reach me at claudiab@kcur.org
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