Iraqi Eats in the City: Atlanta’s Babylon Café
The best restaurants are the ones you usually don't notice. Or maybe you do, but there is nothing about the exterior that draws you in. I often drove by Babylon Cafe, telling myself that I would stop in, but the bright blue and gold building with Babylon spelled with the letter “b” in the shape of a shisha was never quite as exciting as the newest hotspot. But if only for the shisha, it is worth it.
From the quintessential hummus to the rare samak masquf, Babylon Cafe demonstrates some of the best of Iraqi cuisine, a place that has been a crossroad of cultures for thousands of years. Saad Marwad and Kelly Rafia opened this eatery at the intersection of Lenox Rd. and Cheshire Bridge road in 2014 with the desire to share the rich gastronomical heritage of the Middle East. Babylon Café features shisha (hookah), a full bar, and belly dance performances every Friday and Saturday night.
After a cocktail or glass of wine, start with a mezze plate; you have a choice of three appetizers. I recommend the hummus, thick and speckled with paprika and olive oil; the tabula, more parsley than grain as it should be; and the falafel, crisp, light, and deeply satisfying.
Mains are served with lentil soup, and neither the soup nor the beef and lamb kufta disappoints. The kabobs were deliciously charred and fresh from the grill, the jajik provided tart, creamy contrast, and the grilled tomatoes and onions- although tepid- were flavorful. And the shisha: the delicious flavors, expertly packed and topped with classic brick coals transported me back to the Middle East. A variety of delicious deserts and coffee or tea provides an excellent ending. With the reasonable prices for the area, great food, full bar, and smooth shisha, this a must on your next visit.
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