Looking for the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Antwerp? Craving some tasty falafels or some lusciously creamy hummus? Fancy the most exquisite Lebanese, Jewish, Turkish or Syrian specialties? Then buckle up and hoist yourself into your widest pair of pants, because you’re in for a treat.
Aren’t these terrific times, dear friends? After putting the most splendid Asian establishments in the spotlight earlier, it’s now time to focus on the very best Middle Eastern restaurants in Antwerp – and there sure are a lot of those. I don’t know if anyone noticed yet, but a significant portion of Antwerp residents have Middle Eastern roots. As a result, a large and diverse range of Middle Eastern restaurants popped up throughout the years. This is of course a good thing, because unlike the Dutch, whose culinary literacy is limited to sliding raw, pickled fish down their throats like some lanky pelican, these good people actually know what decent food is supposed to taste like. Better go and enjoy it then, I say.
The 10 Best Middle Eastern restaurants in Antwerp
That food in question is as diverse as Antwerp itself, and ranges from simple falafel or kebab to delicious Yiddish, Lebanese and Syrian dishes. It was quite the struggle to see the wood for the trees, but with some help I eventually made it work. All of these places received me exceptionally well by the way. Whole dishes were put in front of me, even after I told the owners they shouldn’t in advance – for which I’m of course very grateful. I’m going to have to lose a pound or ten next week, but it was definitely worth it.
“In recent years a large and diverse range of Middle Eastern restaurants popped up all over Antwerp. This is a good thing, because unlike the Dutch, whose culinary literacy is limited to sliding raw, pickled fish down their throats like some lanky pelican, these good people actually know what decent food is supposed to taste like.”
If you’re looking for Moroccan restaurants in Antwerp, I’d like to refer you to my blog post on African places. They used to be on this list, until a few attentive readers pointed out that Morocco is not in fact in the Middle East, but lies about 3.500 km further west in North Africa. This is about the distance from Brussels to Moscow, plus an extra 1.000 km. Fair point. This is why I removed them here and added them to the equally appetizing blog post above.
*Last updated in March 2023. Any new suggestions? Drop them in the comments below.
1. Falafel King: the best falafel in Antwerp
In recent years, Falafel King became an absolute household name in Borgerhout (discover four more exceptional spots in Boho here). This small but cosy restaurant can be found almost right next to concert hall De Roma, and if you aren’t paying attention you’ll walk right past it because it looks like your standard kebab place from the outside. Nevertheless, they sell what are probably the best falafel in all of Antwerp here. Everything – even the bread – is freshly made on the spot, the King himself is extremely friendly and for just ten euros he’ll put a whole plate of the stuff right in front of you. There is much more to order than falafel here though: many other Palestinian classics are on the menu. Absolute must for those who want to eat well on a small budget. www.falafelking.be
2. BijTutti: Syrian specialties with a view
Syria didn’t make the news in a positive way too often over the past decade. To change this at least locally, Yara – a young woman from Damascus – started From Syria with Love about four years ago. This was a social project to put Syrian cuisine in the spotlight, and to give a number of Syrian women a nice job at the same time. They did take away, catered for parties and companies, and organized cooking classes. Because the building was sold, they had to close shop last year. From Syria with Love still exists as a catering company, but together with her boyfriend Mazen, Yara opened a real restaurant with the same staff on the ninth floor of coworking space C-Hive on Mechelsesteenweg. In BijTutti you can come for a quick lunch as well as extensive dinner or aperitif, all with a magnificent view over the city from the rooftop terrace. Without a doubt worth a visit, especially when the sun is out. www.fsyriawlove.com
3. Salt & Mint: Middle Eastern breakfast and lunch in Antwerp
Amal, the lovely manager of Salt & Mint in the Zurenborg district, has Moroccan roots. Her colourful little restaurant opened six years ago, and is known for its Moroccan breakfast. This would exclude her from the list normally – rules are rules – but it just so happens that you can eat delicious food from almost the entire Middle East in here. Fancy a Turkish or Lebanese breakfast? Perfectly possible! A Persian brunch? Check! A plate full of mixed Middle Eastern tapas? Somebody stop me! This is one of the cosiest places for brunch or breakfast in Antwerp, and every dish you get is filled generously and is perfectly plated down to the last detail. Don’t miss out. www.saltandmint.be
4. Shuk: Middle Eastern street food in the centre of Antwerp
Shuk is a very pleasant family restaurant on Katelijnevest, where all kinds of elegant Middle Eastern street food dishes are served. The business is run by Molly and Ika: two people who have lived in Paris, Tel Aviv and the US and have always kept cooking. Shuk opened just before the corona crisis hit, which was pretty rough, but these days it’s packed almost every afternoon. You can order simple things like falafel and (fantastic) hummus, but a lot of unique mezze as well – many of them vegetarian. Their goal is to bring the food markets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to your table, and although I’ve never been there myself, I assume they did exactly that. Tasty stuff! www.shuk.be
5. Si Bon: Libanese delicacies in Antwerp North
On to the other side of the city in Antwerp North now, where you’ll find Si Bon: a small but very popular Lebanese food shop opposite the old Stuivenberg hospital. This business too, is entirely family-run. You can’t sit down for dinner here, but you can take home a lot of Lebanese food at extremely democratic prices. All the classic dishes mom used to make at home are offered here. What they also have are four different kinds of falafel and a lot of snacks you won’t immediately find anywhere else. And this at rates you could hardly cook them for in your own kitchen. Always have a look inside when you’re in the neighbourhood. www.sibonantwerpen.be
6. Hoffy’s: the perfect introduction to Jewish cuisine
Hoffy’s is located near the Central Station in Lange Kievitstraat and is the most famous Yiddish restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium and perhaps even Europe. Everything is (obviously) kosher and is prepared according to the Torah food law. You can choose between buying some dishes to take home with you, or booking a table to dine in the restaurant. If you want to try as many different options as possible, you should opt for the discovery menu, full of typical dishes such as gefilte fish, matse balls and Sephardic chicken. Those who want to discover the Jewish neighborhood as well can book a guide here to have a walk with. After that you’ll have a nice dinner, and you can ask every question you might still have. www.hoffys.be
7. Zaytouna: Lebanese takeaway in Deurne
Zaytouna is a Lebanese restaurant that opened in Deurne during the first lockdown. Normally this would not be the best of times to start a new business, but since they planned it as a takeaway place, the crisis didn’t exactly make them any poorer. Soon you’ll also be able to dine on site though: the backroom will be converted into a cozy place to sit. The business is run by Hussein, a friendly man with a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother. He prepares the dishes his mom used to serve at home, with his own added twist here and there. The majority of the menu is vegetarian (and often vegan). If you’d like to taste everything all at once, you can order a Beiruti Box for two for €55. I’ve seen one go out the door and those people aren’t going to have to eat again for another day or two. www.zaytounacuisine.be
8. Cotmeh: Kurdish cuisine at Park Den Brandt
Cotmeh is a great Kurdish restaurant behind Park Den Brandt, run by Bülent Oztürk. He’s not only a restaurant owner, but a screenwriter and film director as well. This means the place is a sheer win in terms of atmosphere and style. The dishes you’re served here are largely inspired by his childhood in Turkey: homely Kurdish food that used to be on the table at home (I’m starting to see a pattern here). This ranges from lamb-filled bulgur croquettes to stuffed eggplants, various types of lammacun and lots of soups and salads. Sustainable dishes with honest ingredients, coming with a glass of natural wine if so desired. Try it out. www.cotmeh.be
9. Humm: Middle Eastern ànd vegan at Dageraadplaats
Like to keep your culinary exploration options vegan? Then head to Humm at Dageraadplaats. This beautiful restaurant serves the best vegan dishes from the Middle East. The house specialty is of course – who would have thought? – their very own hummus, which is super tasty. It doesn’t stop there. You can order a Middle Eastern breakfast or a whole table of dishes to share as well. All of the coffee, soft drinks and wines are organic, and the beer is produced by a local brewer who makes it the traditional way. Looking for a healthy and ethically responsible place to dine? You know where to go. www.humm.love
10. KWAT: Kebab with a twist
Taking a new date to a restaurant, but secretly aching for a good old kebab? No worries my friend: at KWAT in the city centre you can have exactly what you crave – with a potential new lover and without embarrassing yourself. Here they’ve taken the standard kebab and made it into a gourmet version – in a nice modern setting. You can have anything in your pitta bread from regular kebab to pulled chicken, tuna, steak and even shrimps. All well presented and with tasty dishes on the side. www.kwat.be
Et voilà: 10 great Middle Eastern restaurants in Antwerp. This list should serve you for a while. Do you know any other places that would fit in here? Did I miss your favorite? Do you want me to explore a different segment of the market? Let me know in the comments below.