A taste of Lweibdeh: Touring the neighborhood’s quaintest eateries

(Photos: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)
If you have a lazy morning or afternoon to spare and a friend to go along, Lweibdeh is the perfect neighborhood for a sidewalk stroll. Along the way, you can pop into its many quaint eateries, to grab a bite to eat — or several.اضافة اعلان

This was exactly how I spent one recent morning, when the weather was not too chilly to spend some time walking around outside. For a change, instead of dining in one place, I decided to touch base at all my favorite local spots for a sampler of the neighborhood’s rustic culinary offerings.

Here, I will walk you through my favorite food establishments of vintage Lweibdeh. For me, these hidden gems bring back childhood memories, but for anyone — familiar or new to the area — they are sure to evoke the sweet flavors of old Amman and its charming fare.

Grab a Rumi coffee to start things off right.The first stop on my tour was Rumi café, because coffee is truly a necessity. I went out on a limb and told the barista to go wild with the order, even though I usually do not stray from a standard latte. The friendly barista, Laith, suggested leaving the foam behind and sipping at a flat white.

I enjoy the dining area at Rumi; the varied outdoor seating arrangements and tables with built-in heaters give the place a warm, cozy feel. The crowd also is very diverse, and everyone ambling into the establishment seems to have a different objective: some pull out laptops and get to work, some catch up with friends, and some pop in for a quick caffeine charge-up.

Munch on a sandwich at Al-Thawak.After my flat white, I set out from Rumi and made my way to Al-Thawak. It is difficult to categorize the establishment, but the best way of explaining it is as a sandwich place that draws inspiration from saj, with an affordable menu. The place is also famous for an Eiran yogurt drink that is full of probiotics and helps with digestion.  

I went for a lighter sandwich — knowing that I had to save room for more — and ordered a sausage, mortadella, and cheese sandwich. Other favorites of mine are the zinger and the cordon blue. I truly enjoy Al-Thawak’s bread and the extra touch of pressing the sandwiches before serving them. Then, there is the pure pleasure of sitting on a bench outside the shop, munching away one bite at a time, and people-watching all the while.

Time for a Mtabaa from Ras Beirut.Moving on to the next stop: Ras Beirut. I have memories of this old establishment from when my father used to take me there as a child. Their calzone — or as they call it, “Mtabaa” — baked in a brick oven, is comfort food at its finest. There is no better feeling than watching the dough slowly cook in the brick oven while your stomach is growling, knowing that that hungry ache will soon be satisfied in the most delicious way.

Ras Beirut has so many types of Mtabaa that I usually end up ordering a few and sharing them with friends. This time, though, I kept my selection to “turkey”, and watched in satisfaction as the employees drizzled mayonnaise and ketchup on top. If anyone asks if you want extra condiments, the answer should always be “yes”.

Again, I relaxed on a sidewalk bench and slowly enjoyed the tasty, warm Mtabaa, with streams of mayo oozing from every bite. People-watching was also part of this experience — it would be hard to live in Amman without the pleasurable pastime, which seems to be embedded in our DNA.

Top it all off with a Fairuz classic: a French pastry.Walking back in the direction of Rumi, I knew I had to make a final stop at one of the first pastry shops in Jordan: Fairuz. The recipes for most of their pastries have stayed the same through the years, and the prices are very affordable.

Fairuz’ eclairs and Millefeuille are on another level. Perhaps especially so for me because the flavors and textures are linked to childhood memories. Although it is a well-established Amman eatery, Fairuz is far from dated. Recently, the place has been getting more and more attention, to the point where it has become a hot trend.

I always say that dessert goes straight to the heart, and my heart was craving an éclair.  Even though my friend was full after all the food we had consumed, as soon as I held that glittering pastry, she seemed to catch my excitement and I knew I had to share. It was a mistake not to get two.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Lweibdeh and are looking for something to do within a walking distance, I recommend taking a trek to these four spots. The best time to go is early on Friday before traffic hits, or on a normal weekday before you become a responsible person and go to work.

This could be the perfect plan for a first date: walking around, enjoying the food, and people watching. But I would leave the extra mayo and ketchup for the third date — it could make things a little messy.

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