Last year, Zaina’s popular downtown eatery gave North Seattleites a treat by opening a branch on Lake City Way, near Maple Leaf. And thank heaven, they brought the same menu of delicious Middle Eastern fast food (all fresh and homemade) with them. The service is friendly, and they mostly do a very brisk takeout business — our last order was ready 15 minutes after we called it in.
The menu: Zaina sticks with classic pita items, salads and snacks. The flavorful pita sandwiches ($5.99-$6.99) are overstuffed with tomato-cucumber salad and your choice of lamb, beef or chicken — or shish kabob, or lamb or chicken shawarma, or, for vegetarians, delicious hummus and falafel.
You can get almost every sandwich served instead as a platter, with pita, salad, tahini sauce and olives ($10.59-$11.99). And Zaina has great choose-your-own-combo deals, for $7.99. Veggie options include a flavorful lentil soup ($2.99/cup), stuffed grape leaves ($6.99) and Greek salad ($6.99).
What to write home about: Zaina is known for its falafel, and that reputation is earned. Crunchy on the outside and light on the inside, they are nicely seasoned and not too heavy. We also enjoyed the juicy and tender, spit-cooked lamb shawarma, some of the best we’ve tasted in Seattle.
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What to skip: There are the traditional baked desserts — baklava, honey cake — but they’re not impressive. Also, a word of warning: The fare can go heavy on the onions; if that doesn’t suit your palate, let them know.
The setting: Countertop service, a few stools for having a quick bite, some bright Middle Eastern decorations. There’s an inviting closed-in patio with brass tables and couch seating with colorful pillows for balmy days.
Summing up: On a recent visit, a falafel combo, a shawarma pita sandwich, a cup of lentil soup and an order of stuffed grape leaves came to $27.56 before tax or tip, and served two amply.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org