Manakish Oven & Grill Featured on Mercury News

Manakish Oven Feature on Mercury News

Written by JESSICA YADEGARAN from Mercury News

Levantine food refers to the delicacies of the Eastern Mediterranean, an ancient and absolutely delicious cuisine that has permeated modern and mainstream restaurants everywhere. If you like falafel or fattoush, the green salad studded with pita bread, consider yourself indoctrinated.

Manakish Oven and Grill - Mercury News
WALNUT CREEK, CA: DECEMBER 31: The Chicken Shawarma Manakish is served at Manakish Oven and Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

A lesser-known favorite, at least here in the Bay Area, is manoush (manakish is the plural), a hand-stretched flatbread made from pita dough and adorned with bright toppings, like za’atar. A new fast-casual eatery has brought these Middle Eastern “pizzas” to Walnut Creek and added specialty cheeses, like whipped labne, marinated meats and more to the warm, brick-oven baked dough.

Manakish Oven and Grill - Mercury News
WALNUT CREEK, CA: DECEMBER 31: The Cheese and Za’atar Manakish is served at Manakish Oven and Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Manakish Oven and Grill
WALNUT CREEK, CA: DECEMBER 31: Hannah Kamau prepares flatbread in the brick oven at Manakish Oven and Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Located at the busy intersection of Treat Boulevard and North Main Street, Manakish Oven & Grill is the brainchild of self-proclaimed serial entrepreneurs Adam Taleb and Feras Ghaban. The recipes are based on their childhood favorites growing up in the United Arab Emirates. We visited on a recent (and very busy) weeknight. Here’s how it went:

THE VIBE: Totally casual yet stylish. The counter-service restaurant has high ceilings with candlestick-inspired chandeliers and Persian-style blue and yellow tiles. There are a few tables inside, as well as a large outdoor patio with heat lamps, but based on dining trends — and the number of people wearing pajama pants on this particular evening — at least half of Manakish’s business is pick-up and take-out.

Staff is friendly, knowledgable and still in soft opening mode, so be patient if they run out of dough and have to make more. They sure know how to handle it. Despite being a fast-casual operation, servers checked on us several times and offered a complimentary appetizer or dessert while we were waiting for our manakish.

THE FOOD: The soft-opening menu is subject to change but currently features eight soft and chewy manakish ($9.50-$15.50) topped with everything from cauliflower and eggplant to tri-tip shawarma and lahm-bajin. Lahm-baijin — which can also be spelled lahmajoun — is ground beef that’s typically mixed with pomegranate molasses, parsley and peppers. We loved the intensely-flavored, almost crunchy za’atar manoush, which you can get with whipped labneh ($11) or mozzarella ($10.50).

Manakish Oven and Grill
WALNUT CREEK, CA: DECEMBER 31: Borek pastries are served at Manakish Oven and Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Manakish Oven and Grill
WALNUT CREEK, CA: DECEMBER 31: The spicy hummus, baba ganoush and regular hummus mezze, from left, are served at Manakish Oven and Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

 

WALNUT CREEK, CA: DECEMBER 31: Baklava is served at Manakish Oven and Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

There’s also a delightful chicken shawarma version built on a zesty yogurt sauce — in lieu of cheese — and sprinkled with pickled veggies. Nice mix of flavors.

A la carte mezzes ($3.50-$5) and fatteh bowls, featuring shawarma atop rice or mixed greens ($12.50-$14.50), round out the menu. We found the lentil soup ($3.50) a bit thin but enjoyed the housemade hummus ($5), which also comes in a jalapeno version, and tangy tabouleh ($5).

WALNUT CREEK, CA: DECEMBER 31: The Beef Shawarma Fatteh Bowl is served at Manakish Oven and Grill in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

DON’T MISS: Grab-and-go pastries and desserts. Only two were available during our visit — walnut baklava and a semolina cake — but the menu lists seven, including savory boreks and a rosewater-laced rice pudding parfait. If they can pull it off, it will be one of the largest selections of Arab-inspired desserts in the area.

PERFECT FOR: Manakish lunch or casual dinner; shawarma bowls; lahm bajin cravings; to-go and pick-up orders; Middle Eastern desserts beyond baklava.

DETAILS: Open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday: and until 8 p.m. Sundays at 2905 N. Main St., Walnut Creek

What is a Manakish?

Manakish Oven & Grill - Walnut Creek

Although our restaurant carries the name Manakish, a manakish is much more than just that.  We choose the name to represent the Middle Eastern comfort food – which is also known as a manakish.  Manakish are savory pastries popular in the Levant or Eastern Mediterranean region. They are perfect as a snack or appetizer or served as a traditional breakfast or lunch meal. 

 

Cauliflower Eggplant Cheese Manakish
Cauliflower Eggplant Manakish

Zaatar Whipped Labne Manakish
Zaatar & Whipped Labne Manakish

What Exactly Are Manakish?

Manakish are a Middle Eastern equivalent of a homemade pizza or flatbread. The word itself is rooted in the Arabic phrase naqash, which translates to mean sculpt or to carve.  The dough of a manakish is rolled flat; it is sculpted gently into a curve where the toppings sit.  The variety of what you can top your manakish is as diverse as pizza or flatbread toppings. Although there are more popular variations, what you put on your manakish can be as creative as your imagination can take you.

The History of the Manakish

Manakish are popular throughout the entire Levant region, which consists of modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Isreal, Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey.  Interestingly, very little has been written about the history or the origins of them. This also explains why so many different cultures have adopted the delicacy as “their own.”

Although origin cannot be agreed upon, what can be is the narrative. Traditionally, women throughout the Eastern Mediterranean would bake the dough in a communal oven each morning.  This bread would provide their families with their daily bread needs and create a place of sharing and community for the women. Smaller portions of the dough at the oven were shared to create manakish for all the families, and allow everyone to enjoy warm bread with a variety of toppings for breakfast each morning.  

 

What To Order On Your Manakish

There are several variations of traditional manakish that should be tried.  One of the most popular forms of manakish is za’atar. This is a traditional spice topping that is mixed with olive oil on the dough before it is baked. 

A classic manakish is one made with olives, tomato, labneh (a tangy, thick and creamy cheese), cucumber and mint.  Another favorite manakish is topped with marinated chicken, minced marinated lamb, and cheese. In fact, the ways you can order manakish are only limited by your imagination. 

Visit Us in Walnut Creek

Manakish Oven & Grill - Walnut Creek

We are excited to bring the traditional flavors of manakish to our establishment, Manakish Oven & Grill in Walnut Creek, CA.  Stop by for some great tasting Eastern Mediterranean cuisine that is fast, healthy, and delicious.  We are located at 2905 N. Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA and are open

Monday – Thursday 10:30 AM – 9 PM

Friday – Saturday 10:30AM -10PM

Sunday 10:30 AM – 8 PM

 

Order Now