Mid-town Tucson recently gained a new spot for Mediterranean food. Named Za'atar Restaurant & Bakery, it's likely you've driven past the 2825 N. Country Club location housed in the former El Taco. But, you wouldn't be remiss for not noticing: El Taco's iconic sign still stands.
Originally a name given to a combination of Middle Eastern herbs, such as ground dried thyme, oregano, and marjoram, za’atar is an aromatic and vibrant utilitarian spice used in a variety of dishes, including being mixed with olive oil and spread on to flatbread, as a seasoning for meats and vegetables, and as a stuffing.
Culinary lesson aside, Tucson's Za’atar is a hidden gem of a Mediterranean eatery and bakery. With house made breads baked fresh to order in a traditional brick oven built by hand from recycled materials, guests are able to stand and watch as their gyro, shawarma, kabob, manakish (thin crust pizza), or falafel, comes to life.
Za’atar also features a creamy and minty Tzaziki, baba ganoush made with market fresh eggplant, a lemony hummus, a mayonnaise-like spread made from a blend of garlic, oil, egg, and lemon called thoom, a daily dessert, and a delicious rose lemonade.
In addition, Za'atar features a traditional Assyrian bread called a samoon. An odd shaped, dense yet delicate, oblong loaf used for savory gyros and shawarma, Za'atar's Samoon is also available solely as a baked good.
With a price point of around $4 to $10 for most items, as well as lunch specials, Za’atar is clearly priced in the affordable range.
Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine...