Are you looking for the best Middle Eastern and North African restaurants in Antwerp? Craving for the ultimate falafel dish, the best Libanese mixed grill or the tastiest Moroccan specialties? Well you came to the right place, because I found you five amazing places.
Yes my friends, these are exciting times. After putting a couple of great Asian restaurants on a pedestal last week, it is now time to do the same for their colleagues from the Middle East and North Africa. After all, apart from the legions of Dutch people flooding the parking lots every weekend, most of the newer members of our Antwerp community are originally from those regions. And unlike our pickled fish gobbling northern neighbours – if I ever write something on cheese croquettes I’ll know where to find you Joop – these lovely people actually brought a lot of good food with them. This resulted in an extensive offer of great places where you can eat delicious Moroccan, Turkish, Lebanese or Jewish food (and everything in between). After a thorough analysis of the current offer, I came to a first list of five great Middle Eastern restaurants in Antwerp. Be assured that there are more to come.
The best Middle Eastern restaurants in Antwerp
Actually making a selection turned out to be no easy task. Most restaurants are still closed due to the – by now rather annoying – corona crisis. Going everywhere for a taste and a nibble was simply not possible, so I was again limited to my own experiences. The many tips I received after my previous article will be included in part two. It seems like it’s going to be a tasty summer. So enjoy, keep washing your hands and try not to drool all over your keyboard. Off we go!
By the way, do you feel like discovering some interesting but lesser known spots in Antwerp and Borgerhout? Click here, here and here for some surprisingly entertaining (I am a modest man) older pieces written by yours truly.
1. Falafel King: Hail to the King, baby!
The first entry on our list is a must. Falafel King grew into a household name in Borgerhout in recent years. This small but cosy place lies next to De Roma, and chances are you’ll walk right past it because it looks like your average kebab shop from the outside. Newsflash: it isn’t. It produces the best falafel in all of Antwerp – by far. Everything – even the bread – is freshly made on the spot, the King himself is an extremely friendly man, and he’ll put a whole plate in front of you for just €8. There’s more to enjoy than falafel: many other Palestinian classics are on the menu as well. Anyone who can’t wait for the lockdown to end should not despair. Takeaway is always an option. What are you waiting for? www.falafelking.be
2. Msemen: Moroccan pancakes in the city centre
Msemen is a relatively new place right in the middle of the Hoogstraat hipster shops. Traditional Moroccan pancakes are sold here. You don’t put syrup or brown sugar on these, but instead fill them up with a wide array of other options. My favourite combo is spicy olives, honey and goat cheese. If you’re especially hungry, order some brewats or harira to go with it – because why wouldn’t you? It’s the perfect place for a quick lunch, but since the owner is a smooth guy who likes philosophising on all kinds of random topics, hanging out a bit longer is also fun. You might even get a cup of mint tea out of it if you actually have something interesting to say. www.facebook.com/msemenA/
3. Libanezza: Libanese specialties from mother’s kitchen
“You want to eat some decent meat? A Lebanese is who you need.” (It works so much better in Dutch) This universal wisdom is known to every somewhat experienced traveler, and Antwerp is no exception to the rule. Libanezza is located in Hoogstraat as well, en is a cosy place offering a fairly complete overview of Lebanese cuisine. No fancy stuff here, but lots of nicely spiced plates as they are served in homes all over the motherland. Book a table with some friends, order a number of different dishes and share everything with each other before heading out into the city for the night. You won’t leave with a grumbling stomach here. www.facebook.com/Libanezza/
4. Gojo: tasty Ethiopian food without cutlery
Yes, you geographical genius you: Ethiopia is indeed not located in the Middle East. It’s fairly close however, and I’m too lazy to write a separate article on it, so there you go. Gojo is an atmospheric Ethiopian restaurant on Sint-Katelijnevest, and dining here is a unique experience. This is a food sharing venue as well. If you order for two, a lot of small dishes are presented on a large savoury pancake, which you can then immediately use as improvised cutlery. You are supposed to eat everything with your hands, and to be honest it works pretty liberating. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike will get more than their money’s worth here. Maybe don’t book it for a first date though. You’ll have to keep your greasy fingers to yourself. www.gojoantwerp.be
5. From Syria with love: socially responsible cooking classes
We have to be fair: Syria hasn’t exactly been in the news in the most positive way throughout the last decade. The last entry in our list wants to change this view, while also empowering Syrian women. From Syria with Love is technically not a restaurant but a valuable social project. Yara – a young woman from Damascus – ended up in Belgium as a refugee and decided to share her passion for her home cuisine and culture with the rest of us. Together with four Syrian housewives, she founded a catering business focusing on traditional – mostly vegetarian – food. This soon proved quite popular, so they started organising Syrian cooking classes for interested groups as well.
The food is lovely (the hummus especially is unlike any I’ve ever tasted), the rates are very affordable and it’s all freshly made with a big smile. What is more: due to the lockdown and the restrictions on events, you can now come to their kitchen at Gitschotellei for takeaway as well. Great food and beautiful people: what more could you want? www.fsyriawlove.com
“Antwerp is full of great Middle Eastern restaurants. The trick is knowing where to find them.”
There you go: five amazing Middle Eastern restaurants in Antwerp. Do you know of any other places I should discover? Did I miss your favourite? Got any tips for other culinary articles? Let it all out in the comments below. I’ll be looking for Italians for the next one.
Would you prefer to book your Middle Eastern Restaurants not in Antwerp but abroad? Click here to read my stories on Singapore, Aruba, Edinburgh and Hanoi. Looking for another Belgian destination? There are plenty of things to do in Bruges, Spa, Koksijde, Liège and Charleroi as well.