Middle-eastern fare, award-winning shawarma and falafil, vegan & vegetarian options
The owners of the Al-Habashi Mart, Tawiq and Salha Al-habashi, opened the Habashi House in 2000 in the historic City Market area in Kansas City’s eclectic River Market neighborhood. The Habashi House aims to transport customers to the great markets and restaurants of the Middle East. Decked with Arabic oil paintings of veiled women and tapestries of camel traders and the Dome of the Rock, the interior of Habashi House stands apart from other City Market restaurants. Its high ceilings and exposed brick give the room a vastness unmatched in City Market dining rooms. You’ll feel whisked away to a Damascus back alley while sitting on concrete benches decorated in colorful blankets and pillows. But the surest way to get a feel for the Middle East at Habashi House is to devour as much food as possible.
While not as well known to locals as Jerusalem Café, an eatery located in the nearby ‘hood of Westport, critics have not ignored the fare at Habashi House. The Kansas City Star named Habashi House the “Best Shawarma” in 2008 and in 2007, the Pitch Weekly named it “Best Fast Food.” The Habashi House’s web site and menu boast of the “best falafil sandwich in town,” and let me tell you, that menu tells no lies.
Served in a hot pita pocket and dripping with tahini sauce, the falafil patties come out of the kitchen perfectly fried, crispy on the outside, moist and tasty on the inside, a tasty dichotomy of texture. The most popular dish on the Habashi House’s menu, the house combo, presents an overview of Middle Eastern staples like hummus, dawali, tabouli, baba ghanouj, those delicious falafil patties, Arabic rice, and salad. The hummus is served drowning in olive oil. The baba ghanouj, an eggplant dip, has a smoky taste that goes well with the house-made pita bread. The tabouli, a salad consisting of minced parsley, burgul wheat, and diced vegetables, is like popping a whole herb garden in your mouth. Squeeze a little lemon on top of that tabouli, trust me. The dawali (stuffed grape leaves) really stood out. Commonly referred to as dolmades in every Greek restaurant, the kitchen staff at the Habashi House switch out the ground meat commonly found in dolmades for a combination of vegetables and Arabic rice. The mixture binds together inside the grape leaf and doesn’t shake loose of its wrapping after the first bite, a welcome change to the usual dolmade experience. The sweet tartness of the grape leaf offsets the savory richness of the rice and veggie combo.
The best thing about Habashi House might be the prices. The low price of $6.99 will get you the house combo, the falafil sandwich runs $5.49 and the most expensive meal, the shawerma combo (shawerma lamb meat added to the house combo), will only cost you $8.99. The prices alone are worth a trip, but the quality of the food, the decorative dining room, and the friendly service make Habashi House one of the best deals not just in the City Market, but Kansas City.