May 19, 2011

Manakeesh: Best Baklava in Philly?

It’s been three years since our hunt for authentic baklava in Philadelphia began. Both of us still dream about the Ottoman-era pastry we had while sitting on the curb of a small street in Santorini, Greece, one sweltering summer day. The deliciousness haunts my memories.

The search has been disappointing and frustrating to say the least. The baklava at the Greek stands in Reading Terminal Market did not seem fresh and was below average in taste. Sadly, the Greek restaurants we've been to (Kanella, Effie's, Dmitri's) either didn’t offer it or we found it to be nowhere close.

It was therefore with much anticipation and trepidation that we approached Manakeesh Cafe in West Philly, who many claim has amazing baklava. Could our three year search finally end? YES!

While still not as good as Santorini's baklava, the Manakeesh rendition was certainly close enough to become our new go-to spot to rekindle one of our fondest foodie memories.



I ordered a batch of six pieces, which came with one extra in more of a cookie shape. Needless to say I ate all of them in just a few hours. They were fresh, soft and had just the right amount of doughiness. The hint of pistachio along with the honey and nut mixture provided the punch of flavor that has been missing from all the other baklava we’ve had in Philly.



In addition to the baklava, the Manakeesh sandwich - a Lebanese flatbread - is worth trying. You can choose between several different types meat or vegetarian options. I went with the Lham Bajeen, or ground lamb. It sort of looks like a giant pita, but the bread is much thinner, softer and has more flavor. A side of hummus would have taken the sandwich up a notch, so I would add that to my order next time.


If I had more time to sit down I would have ordered the Turkish coffee, which is very different and much stronger than other coffees we typically drink in the U.S.

As you can tell from the picture below, Manakeesh also has a counter full of cookies and other baked goods. The line of people only coming in for the bakery was as long, if not longer, than the sandwich line.





Manakeesh Cafe Bakery on Urbanspoon

34 comments:

mriphysician said...

sounds yummy

Anonymous said...

Check out Cafe Fulya on 2nd bw fitzwater and monroe sts.

Natasha Andjelkovic said...

Two places with hands down the best baklava in Philadelphia are Sandy's Diner on 24th/Locust and Divan at 22nd/Carpenter.

Sheila said...

I have to concur with Natasha, Sandy's Diner (Locust and 24th) has the best! And don't stop at the baklava either!

Anonymous said...

Check out Zorba's on Fairmont near 22nd. hmmmm

Anonymous said...

Will definately try this out - coming from a house where baklawa dough was made from scratch in the old Arab Syrian tradition, the standard will be high! In any case, everything looks delicious.
By the way, anyone ever tried out in Allentown, The Red Tomato Pizzeria on Rte. 309 (Orefield)? Best pizza, salads and cheesesteaks I've ever had in my life!

Anonymous said...

Wow! There's someone else who knows about the Red Tomato in Allentown (Orefield), PA. IT'S FANTASTIC! In addition to their pizzas which are world-class, the Philadelphians are in competition with the Red Tomatoes best-ever Phillie Cheesesteak Stromboli. Unbelievable! Portions are great and prices are great! Best of all, it's a family based gourmet pizzeria and you really feel like you're at home. Honestly, I can't say enough about how good the food is.

Anonymous said...

i had some baklava from Raadical Restaurant (Coplay, PA) and it was aaaaawesome !!!
they have good pizza and also their stromboli i just love this place..

Anonymous said...

By far, the best baklava I have ever eaten is from a Middle Eastern food truck at 16th and JFK Blvd. It's loaded with ground nuts and absolutely delicious.

Dave

Anonymous said...

I love the baklava with pistachio at Norma's & Cous Cous in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Anonymous said...

Please leave the hummus out of the lahm b'ajin. It's typically eaten with a squirt of lemon to bring out the spices in the meat, you can also put some barbecued/roasted eggplant in the middle and roll it. Thanks for your post, it took me back to my days in Lebanon!

Bradd said...

Wow. Thanks for all the suggestions. This is why we love Philly. Guess we now need to start a baklava tour!

We've been to Sandy's many times for breakfast, but somehow missed the baklava.

And we leave out the hummus on the lahm b'ajin!

Anonymous said...

Sandy's is good, but really Manakeesh's is better.

Anonymous said...

Have tried Manakeesh and whole heartedly disagree. Just as the photograph clearly shows the baklava is completely undercooked, and if you had a profile picture you would be able to see that. Also baklava is made with walnuts not pistachios, they are usually used as a less expensive filler item. The Olive Tree in Downingtown has baklava that is both homemade and worth the trip, I have even bought whole trays from there for weddings.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, Divan at 22nd/Carpenter and Cafe Fulya at 2nd/Monroe make the best baklava - they converted my picky child into a fan! Yummmy!

Anonymous said...

Check out Suburban Diner's baklava. They are located at Street Road and Bustleton Pike in Feasterville . It is orgasmic according to my girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

My friend actually makes the best, but she probably wouldn't appreciate me giving out her address!! :)

Charles said...

And don't forget S&H Kebab House, Passyunk & South. Tremendous baklava there.

Anonymous said...

Hands down...Athena Restaurant in Glenside rules! Beats my experiences in all of Philly and can beat most of the meals I had in Greece.

Anonymous said...

The best baklava along with other middle east foos can be found at Armenian Delight located on the corner of Rt 320 and West Chester Pike in Broomall. Their "delights" are made fresh daily. Check it out, u will never need to go anywhere else ...

Yolanda said...

Manakeesh has the best baklava anad coffee in the city. Hands Down!

Anonymous said...

You idiot - to get good baklava you need to go to a real Turkish restaurant since it is a TURKISH food! Going to Greek restaurants was your biggest mistake and also getting Turkish coffee at a Lebanese restaurant!
Would you go to a Chinese restaurant expecting to find good Japanese food? Absolutely not!

PHILLYTOM said...

Without a doubt the best Baklava on the planet is produced during St George's Cathedral's yearly festival.The festival takes place between May 28 and May 31 this year.St George's Cathedral is located on 8th street between Locust and Spruce streets in Philadelphia.In addition to Baklava there are many other authentic Greek dishes available.

Anonymous said...

"Baklava" was introduced by the Ottoman Empire? I was sure it was Turkish as everybody else in Balkans, were the Turks occupied these lands hundred years. Perhaps they learn it in Bagdad?
The mother of my Turkish friend made a delicious one. He told me that it has to stay in a jar with honey for some weeks to be really good.A Greek fried, made it at home and took extreme care to be perfect(Needs: good oven, Filo, walnuts/ pistachio, butter, honey, a brash and dedication as everything good).
I asked myself, how the nomadic Turks, made it on the saddle of the horses, together with other delicious meals? I have read a book with a title,( I don't have the book, is in Bucks County Libraries) approx" "The treasure of Anatolia". The author wrote that "Baklava" was consumed and is documented at the Byzantine Court in IX- century, when the Turks were not around. The Byzantines (East Roman Empire had in IX century in Constantinople Hospitals and women doctors!). Turks took the goodies from the fall of Byzantium.Siria, Lebanon, were also in Byzantium empire . The Arabs came late. Read history books about the timing. etc
Sorry to disappoint you all. lets know the truth.Similar. Translations of old Greek philosophers and mathematics by Arabs, was the only way it reached as. Thanks.
Now we know that Marco Polo did not introduce the spaghetti in Italy ( as a copy of Chinese noodles), a very popular believe.
Just a curios L>A>G>

Anonymous said...

"Baklava" was introduced by the Ottoman Empire? I was sure it was Turkish as everybody else in Balkans, were the Turks occupied these lands hundred years. Perhaps they learn it in Bagdad?
The mother of my Turkish friend made a delicious one. He told me that it has to stay in a jar with honey for some weeks to be really good.A Greek fried, made it at home and took extreme care to be perfect(Needs: good oven, Filo, walnuts/ pistachio, butter, honey, a brash and dedication as everything good).
I asked myself, how the nomadic Turks, made it on the saddle of the horses, together with other delicious meals? I have read a book with a title,( I don't have the book, is in Bucks County Libraries) approx" "The treasure of Anatolia". The author wrote that "Baklava" was consumed and is documented at the Byzantine Court in IX- century, when the Turks were not around. The Byzantines (East Roman Empire had in IX century in Constantinople Hospitals and women doctors!). Turks took the goodies from the fall of Byzantium.Siria, Lebanon, were also in Byzantium empire . The Arabs came late. Read history books about the timing. etc
Sorry to disappoint you all. lets know the truth.Similar. Translations of old Greek philosophers and mathematics by Arabs, was the only way it reached as. Thanks.
Now we know that Marco Polo did not introduce the spaghetti in Italy ( as a copy of Chinese noodles), a very popular believe.
Just a curios L>A>G>fnoolo

Anonymous said...

you should try alyans at 4th and south. great baklava, and food

Anonymous said...

I have yet to find any baklava that rates as good as the one I make at home.

Anonymous said...

The best baklava - and nut rolls - are at "The Big Apple" on Rt. 82 in East Fallowfield. MUST have them!!

Anonymous said...

I love how everyone is using this forum to advertise their own business. Clearly the writers loved Manakeesh and wanted to share that with the world. just take it for what it is and while you're at it, try the baklava at Manakeesh and see what you're missing for yourselves ;)

HoldingAloha said...

Cafe Zoe in Conshy has an amazing baklava made in house.

HoldingAloha said...

Now I need a Za'atar manakeesh. Nom!

foodzings said...

try mazag cafe... i've had dahlia's baklava at a friend's house, and it was amazing!

best baklava said...

Baklava is very popular dessert.Its One of the oldest known recipes for a sort of proto-baklava is found in a Chinese cookbook.

Christina said...

Im from Delaware but my husband is from Philly so I make him take me there at least once every other month. We always get food from Sa'ads (across the street from Manakeesh) and then make a mad dash to Manakeesh. The BEST baklava I have ever had!