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Al Bawadi Grill is among Bridgeview’s finest. Al Bawadi Grill

A Guide to the Middle Eastern Restaurants in Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs

Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview is surrounded by wonderful food from the Arabic world

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Bridgeview has long been nicknamed “Little Palestine,” for its large population of Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, and others from Arabic-speaking places. Only 30 minutes from Downtown Chicago by car, Harlem Avenue — the suburb’s main drag — boasts a large selection of Arab-run businesses, from hookah bars to grocery stores to jewelry shops. The restaurants stand out the most, showing the best of Chicagoland’s Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Jordanian cuisines (known in Arabic as Bilad al-Sham), along with Afghan and Yemeni cuisine. While many of these restaurants share dishes, like shawerma or kebab, the sheer diversity of the food in the Bilad al-Sham region means dishes can vary tremendously from city to city: Each restaurant or bakery in Bridgeview and its neighbors have its own specialities, reflecting the identities of the restaurant workers.

Note: Every place on this map obtains its meat and gelatin from halal sources.

As of June 11, Chicago restaurants have fully reopened and the city has lifted restrictions on capacity and social distancing. However, on July 30, the city issued guidance recommending that everyone wear facial coverings while indoors. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following safety guidelines. The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is available here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Al Bawadi Grill

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7216 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 599-1999
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Al Bawadi is well-loved by the Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian community in Bridgeview, largely because the food and decor are reminiscent of home. The interiors are unapologetically Palestinian with the red patterned fabric that decorates the walls and upholstery which draws on Bedouin culture. The look has long been integrated into restaurants and cafes in Palestine and Jordan. Bawadi’s menu, curated by founders Kal Ismail and Khalied Baste, is extensive, with everything from classic mezze like batata harra (spicy potatoes), kibbeh, to kebab. If you get anything grab their chicken or beef shawarma (encased in thin but sturdy shrak bread) and all accompanied with excellent fries and house pickles. Bawadi’s even worth a stop if you just want dessert for its knafa pastries. Outdoor seating is available on the weekends in a tent attached to the building itself. A second location opened in 2019 in north suburban Niles.

2. Kabul Kabob

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7265 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 529-0590
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Afghan cuisine is renowned for skewered and barbecued meats. Kabul Kabob is also part of the Harlem Avenue community of restaurants and while it is definitely worth a stop. Their menu also includes other elements of Afghanistan’s expansive and diverse cuisines. Kabul Pilau and mantu (dumplings) are two highlights of the menu: Kabul pilau, although it comes with a piece of lamb on the bone, is really worth it for the spiced rice that comes with it. It’s flavored with dried fruit and carrots, and served with different sauces.

3. Alwatan Bakery

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7279 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 907-5681
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Alwatan is a Bridgeview classic because it features such an extensive menu of mu’jinat, an expansive genre of savory baked goods made with dough including mana’eesh (za’tar bread), akras (wheat fritters), and sfiha (flatbread with meat).  The white cheese and za’tar man’eesh come in all of the classic varieties (including what’s often called “cocktail” — a mix of cheese and za’tar). But another reason to go to Alwatan is for its ka’ik: an airy bread covered densely in sesames and typically sold from carts on the streets of Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Related distantly to the Turkish simit (circular bread with a hole), ka’ik can come in different forms (shaped like a long-oval, or like a football) and is eaten on its own (or with salt, za’tar, ful (fava beans), or whatever else you have on hand). A piece of ka’ik and some of Alwatan’s excellent falafel makes a meal in itself. Watan also sells tea biscuits that are crunchy and slightly sweet, with anise and ma’amoul.

Cheese Man’oushe
Alwatan

4. Shibam Yemeni Kitchen

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9052 S Harlem Ave
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 599-1112
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Yemeni cuisine is well loved beyond Yemen in the Arabic-speaking world, with clusters of Yemeni restaurants in major cities like Amman and Cairo. Shibam also has an extensive menu with classics like mandi (rice dish with meat), plus meat stews saltah and fahsa. Shibam offers breakfast and Yemeni-style ful, prepared atop charcoal. While they make their own desserts, like arika, made with dates, bread, and honey, Shibam has a Chicago location on North Elston Avenue.

5. Prince Sweets & Bakery

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9068 S Harlem Ave
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 598-9177
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In the realm of Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian desserts, knafa is the best known in either its na’ima or khishna forms (na’ima being made with semolina and khishna with knafa or kadaif pastry; a thin vermicelli-like noodle). Prince has both, with its distinctive dark orange, along with other well known classics, including three different kinds of basboosa or harissa (a cornmeal cake soaked in syrup featuring a variety of toppings), and ma’amoul (with walnut and date varieties). Prince also features Palestinian regional specialties, like karakiyya, a thin-fried dough dotted with black seed and sesame soaked in syrup. 

A plate of Middle Eastern sweets
Prince features knafa
Prince Sweets & Bakery

6. Oozi Corner

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9115 S Harlem Ave
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(855) 669-4246
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Of all the restaurants in Bridgeview, Ozi Corner leans the heaviest into Syrian cuisine. Oozi is a dish found largely in Syria and Jordan: very lightly spiced beef served with peas and rice. Another popular iteration of oozi is encased within bread or pastry and convenient for packing for lunch or picking up at a bakery on your way to work: Oozi Corner’s version is very generous and sturdy, made within the same dough they provide with every order and accompanied with a side of their smooth hummus. The rest of the menu features Syrian classics including grilled kibbeh, several clay-pot stews, along with other dishes like fattoush and kebab. Oozi also has outdoor seating and a drive-thru with a more limited menu.

7. Selma's Sweets & Frozen Treats

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7205 W 103rd St
Palos Hills, IL 60465
(708) 529-3407
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Selma has the most limited options of the many dessert spots in Bridgeview, but it perhaps has the most special. Amongst the rotating gelato flavors it rotates from day to day is mastic gelato, a popular ice cream flavor through Arabic world; it’s one of the view places in the Chicago area to get it fresh. Other desserts also rotate. The knafa na’ima has a thick, flavorful semolina topping and is generous on the cheese. The harissa — a semolina cake often made with coconut which is also known as basboosa in its Egyptian iterations — is also excellent. Selma’s serves a variety studded with anise, black seed, and sesame. Keep an eye out for Ramadan offerings, like qata’if (a pastry stuffed with nuts) and different seasonal drinks, like karkade, a hibiscus iced tea.

8. Baba Saj - Palos Hills

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10442 S Harlem Ave
Palos Hills, IL 60465
(708) 741-7183
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Saj is a street-food well loved in Bilad al-Sham, consisting of a flatbread folded over into a half-moon shape that can be served with a variety of fillings. Baba Saj offers everything from labneh with olives to halal mortadella; school-kid classics. Maybe their best is the muhammara saj, made with tomatoes bursting out of the saj itself, is juicy and satisfying. Other offerings include different mana’eesh varieties, shawerma, and msakhan — a flatbread topped with stewed onions, sumac and chicken which the Palestinian city of Tulkaram is particularly well-known for. The Harlem Avenue location is technically in Palos Hills. There’s also a drive-thru and another location in Oak Lawn.

Mhammara Saj
Baba Saj

9. Fattoush

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10700 S Harlem Ave
Worth, IL 60482
(708) 671-9999
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Slightly further down Harlem Avenue in the Friendly Village, Fattoush maintains a long and expansive with all of the Bilad al-Sham classics, including mansaf (a lamb-and-rice dish served with bread) and an iconic rich sauce made out of jameed (a rehydrated yogurt with origins in Bedouin cuisine). The namesake salad, fattoush, is served unconventionally in a large fried bread bowl and is fun to share in a group. A dish you might not be able to get anywhere else is mtawameh, which is slightly different from toum, the popular fluffy garlic sauce. Muthawama has a good amount of potato mixed in and is customarily eaten as a mezze with bread. Fattoush also boasts some of the best house pickles in the Southwest Suburbs.

10. Al Medina Bakery

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11228 S Harlem Ave
Worth, IL 60482
(708) 586-2680
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A little unassuming, Al Medina Bakery has some of the best mu’jinat, made fresh daily, in the Southwest Suburbs. A small supermarket with a full-fledged bakery in the back, its pillowy sfiha, topped with minced meat and very finely diced tomatoes, has beautiful delicate crimps around its rim. The spinach fteer is very generous on the spinach and onion filling, with the right amount of lemon and sumac.  They also have a wide selection of tea biscuits and barazek. They also stock a variety of breads, including ka’ik and excellent fresh falafel.

1. Al Bawadi Grill

7216 W 87th St, Bridgeview, IL 60455

Al Bawadi is well-loved by the Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian community in Bridgeview, largely because the food and decor are reminiscent of home. The interiors are unapologetically Palestinian with the red patterned fabric that decorates the walls and upholstery which draws on Bedouin culture. The look has long been integrated into restaurants and cafes in Palestine and Jordan. Bawadi’s menu, curated by founders Kal Ismail and Khalied Baste, is extensive, with everything from classic mezze like batata harra (spicy potatoes), kibbeh, to kebab. If you get anything grab their chicken or beef shawarma (encased in thin but sturdy shrak bread) and all accompanied with excellent fries and house pickles. Bawadi’s even worth a stop if you just want dessert for its knafa pastries. Outdoor seating is available on the weekends in a tent attached to the building itself. A second location opened in 2019 in north suburban Niles.

7216 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455

2. Kabul Kabob

7265 W 87th St, Bridgeview, IL 60455

Afghan cuisine is renowned for skewered and barbecued meats. Kabul Kabob is also part of the Harlem Avenue community of restaurants and while it is definitely worth a stop. Their menu also includes other elements of Afghanistan’s expansive and diverse cuisines. Kabul Pilau and mantu (dumplings) are two highlights of the menu: Kabul pilau, although it comes with a piece of lamb on the bone, is really worth it for the spiced rice that comes with it. It’s flavored with dried fruit and carrots, and served with different sauces.

7265 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455

3. Alwatan Bakery

7279 W 87th St, Bridgeview, IL 60455
Cheese Man’oushe
Alwatan

Alwatan is a Bridgeview classic because it features such an extensive menu of mu’jinat, an expansive genre of savory baked goods made with dough including mana’eesh (za’tar bread), akras (wheat fritters), and sfiha (flatbread with meat).  The white cheese and za’tar man’eesh come in all of the classic varieties (including what’s often called “cocktail” — a mix of cheese and za’tar). But another reason to go to Alwatan is for its ka’ik: an airy bread covered densely in sesames and typically sold from carts on the streets of Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Related distantly to the Turkish simit (circular bread with a hole), ka’ik can come in different forms (shaped like a long-oval, or like a football) and is eaten on its own (or with salt, za’tar, ful (fava beans), or whatever else you have on hand). A piece of ka’ik and some of Alwatan’s excellent falafel makes a meal in itself. Watan also sells tea biscuits that are crunchy and slightly sweet, with anise and ma’amoul.

7279 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455

4. Shibam Yemeni Kitchen

9052 S Harlem Ave, Bridgeview, IL 60455

Yemeni cuisine is well loved beyond Yemen in the Arabic-speaking world, with clusters of Yemeni restaurants in major cities like Amman and Cairo. Shibam also has an extensive menu with classics like mandi (rice dish with meat), plus meat stews saltah and fahsa. Shibam offers breakfast and Yemeni-style ful, prepared atop charcoal. While they make their own desserts, like arika, made with dates, bread, and honey, Shibam has a Chicago location on North Elston Avenue.

9052 S Harlem Ave
Bridgeview, IL 60455

5. Prince Sweets & Bakery

9068 S Harlem Ave, Bridgeview, IL 60455
A plate of Middle Eastern sweets
Prince features knafa
Prince Sweets & Bakery

In the realm of Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian desserts, knafa is the best known in either its na’ima or khishna forms (na’ima being made with semolina and khishna with knafa or kadaif pastry; a thin vermicelli-like noodle). Prince has both, with its distinctive dark orange, along with other well known classics, including three different kinds of basboosa or harissa (a cornmeal cake soaked in syrup featuring a variety of toppings), and ma’amoul (with walnut and date varieties). Prince also features Palestinian regional specialties, like karakiyya, a thin-fried dough dotted with black seed and sesame soaked in syrup. 

9068 S Harlem Ave
Bridgeview, IL 60455

6. Oozi Corner

9115 S Harlem Ave, Bridgeview, IL 60455

Of all the restaurants in Bridgeview, Ozi Corner leans the heaviest into Syrian cuisine. Oozi is a dish found largely in Syria and Jordan: very lightly spiced beef served with peas and rice. Another popular iteration of oozi is encased within bread or pastry and convenient for packing for lunch or picking up at a bakery on your way to work: Oozi Corner’s version is very generous and sturdy, made within the same dough they provide with every order and accompanied with a side of their smooth hummus. The rest of the menu features Syrian classics including grilled kibbeh, several clay-pot stews, along with other dishes like fattoush and kebab. Oozi also has outdoor seating and a drive-thru with a more limited menu.

9115 S Harlem Ave
Bridgeview, IL 60455

7. Selma's Sweets & Frozen Treats

7205 W 103rd St, Palos Hills, IL 60465

Selma has the most limited options of the many dessert spots in Bridgeview, but it perhaps has the most special. Amongst the rotating gelato flavors it rotates from day to day is mastic gelato, a popular ice cream flavor through Arabic world; it’s one of the view places in the Chicago area to get it fresh. Other desserts also rotate. The knafa na’ima has a thick, flavorful semolina topping and is generous on the cheese. The harissa — a semolina cake often made with coconut which is also known as basboosa in its Egyptian iterations — is also excellent. Selma’s serves a variety studded with anise, black seed, and sesame. Keep an eye out for Ramadan offerings, like qata’if (a pastry stuffed with nuts) and different seasonal drinks, like karkade, a hibiscus iced tea.

7205 W 103rd St
Palos Hills, IL 60465

8. Baba Saj - Palos Hills

10442 S Harlem Ave, Palos Hills, IL 60465
Mhammara Saj
Baba Saj

Saj is a street-food well loved in Bilad al-Sham, consisting of a flatbread folded over into a half-moon shape that can be served with a variety of fillings. Baba Saj offers everything from labneh with olives to halal mortadella; school-kid classics. Maybe their best is the muhammara saj, made with tomatoes bursting out of the saj itself, is juicy and satisfying. Other offerings include different mana’eesh varieties, shawerma, and msakhan — a flatbread topped with stewed onions, sumac and chicken which the Palestinian city of Tulkaram is particularly well-known for. The Harlem Avenue location is technically in Palos Hills. There’s also a drive-thru and another location in Oak Lawn.

10442 S Harlem Ave
Palos Hills, IL 60465

9. Fattoush

10700 S Harlem Ave, Worth, IL 60482

Slightly further down Harlem Avenue in the Friendly Village, Fattoush maintains a long and expansive with all of the Bilad al-Sham classics, including mansaf (a lamb-and-rice dish served with bread) and an iconic rich sauce made out of jameed (a rehydrated yogurt with origins in Bedouin cuisine). The namesake salad, fattoush, is served unconventionally in a large fried bread bowl and is fun to share in a group. A dish you might not be able to get anywhere else is mtawameh, which is slightly different from toum, the popular fluffy garlic sauce. Muthawama has a good amount of potato mixed in and is customarily eaten as a mezze with bread. Fattoush also boasts some of the best house pickles in the Southwest Suburbs.

10700 S Harlem Ave
Worth, IL 60482

10. Al Medina Bakery

11228 S Harlem Ave, Worth, IL 60482

A little unassuming, Al Medina Bakery has some of the best mu’jinat, made fresh daily, in the Southwest Suburbs. A small supermarket with a full-fledged bakery in the back, its pillowy sfiha, topped with minced meat and very finely diced tomatoes, has beautiful delicate crimps around its rim. The spinach fteer is very generous on the spinach and onion filling, with the right amount of lemon and sumac.  They also have a wide selection of tea biscuits and barazek. They also stock a variety of breads, including ka’ik and excellent fresh falafel.

11228 S Harlem Ave
Worth, IL 60482

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