From Beirut to Vancouver: One of the most popular restaurant chains from the Middle East has just launched its first North American location right here at home.
Zaatar is a Levantine herbal blend of dried sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds. “W Zeit” means “with cold-pressed olive oil”. “If zaatar is the heart of Lebanese cuisine, zeit is no doubt the soul” reads a wall in the sleek, airy space flooded with natural light thanks to its floor-to-ceiling front window.
The concept is casual (counter service) and contemporary. Being right in the heart of downtown, there’s lots of grab and go, but there's also plenty of seating, including some communal tables, which goes right to the heart of the restaurant’s goal. Not only does Zaatar w Zeit aim to put healthy, modern Lebanese cuisine on the global map, it also wants to bring people together over the breaking of flatbread.
Zaatar w Zeit’s hashtag/mantra is #loveregardless. “More than anything," its website says, "we know that overcoming differences and feeling included for who you are is priceless.”
Freshly baked wraps are made to order. You can customize your wrap by choosing between regular or thin white, oat, multigrain, and spinach flatbreads and pick toppings like pickles and fresh mint. Varieties include halloumi bacon, shawarma steak, vegan baked falafel, and chicken tawouk (a street-food staple with chicken marinated in yogurt, lemon juice, and spices). Famous Chicken consists of roasted chicken with cheese. (What makes it famous is that Zaatar w Zeit was the first restaurant in the Middle East to serve chicken this way—rather than simply roasted and plated—and the dish took off.)
Dips are big: look for tangy tuna tajen; labneh; and several types of hummus (including beet and avocado), among others.
Manousheh, which is traditionally a breakfast item in Lebanon, is Zaatar w Zeit’s signature dish. Flatbread comes with spices or toppings like the restaurant’s namesake (wild zaatar with diced onion and tomato sauce or classic zaatar with toasted sesame seeds and sumac). The cheese version features salty Mediterranean akkawi. The white brine cheese is named after the Israeli city of Acre, where it originated.
Then there are salads (such as Fattoush and Lentilicious, with kale), soups (like kale and green peas), flatbread pizzas, and dessert wraps. A traditional dessert is ashtalieh, a cream pudding with nuts and fragrant orange-blossom water.
Strong Lebanese coffee, which is made with 100% Arabica beans, comes with a piece of Turkish delight. There are regular, decaf, and cardamom varieties.
Prices for wraps range from $7.99 to $12.49; salads start at $10.99; and flatbread pizzas run from $11.99 to $14.99. Manousheh ranges from $4.99 to $7.49.
Zaatar w Zeit is open Monday to Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
See Zaatar w Zeit for more info. See below for more photos of the new Vancouver location.