Exploring the flavors and textures of a different country’s cuisine is a vacation necessity — so why not make it a staycation one, too?
Don’t just play tourist — play food tourist — in Amman this summer by hitting these ten quintessential city eateries.
1 || Shawarma Alreem
At first glance, Shawarma Reem seems like your typical hole-in-the-wall, quick-bite establishment, but what goes on in their tiny little kitchen proves that it’s way more than that. Long lines of hungry shawarma-cravers, often the occasional celebrity tourist being one of them, habitually form to brave blistering temperatures, just for those bites of sublimely-seasoned wraps they know are short moments away. Indulge in your choice of beef or chicken shawarma coated in a delicious garlic sauce, complemented with condiments like pickles and tomato, all wrapped in the warm embrace of freshly-toasted bread — if that doesn’t scream tempting, I don’t know what does.
2 || Al-Quds Falafel
It seems many of Amman’s definitive eateries don’t look it from the outside, but it’s a good thing we’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover, because this falafel joint will have you wondering how ever ate these fried delicacies any other way. Situated along the famed Rainbow Street, this tiny eatery with barely enough tables to seat their well-deserved demand has (un)surprisingly welcomed worldwide celebrities and politicians yearning for this Middle Eastern guilty pleasure — and perhaps that’s because what they lack in material standards for “aesthetic” is completely made up for with pure, crisp heavenliness.
3 || Hashem
Amman’s downtown is a hub for city culture, and Hashem is one delicious reason why. This establishment is, again, small and totally resemblant of any other fast casual eatery, but the flavors produced in their kitchens wil have you believing Hashem invented street-food culture itself. When you’re craving a quintessential Arab pig-out session and want nothing in your midst besides hummus, falafel and other mezze galore, there is simply no better place to fetch it from than the eatery who epitomized that very meal.
Yes, New York’s reputation as the world’s food capital is well deserved, but it simply doesn’t compare to the food I eat at beit sitti — which makes cooking lessons at Beit Sitti only the perfect staycation activity whose enjoyment lasts far beyond the moment you exit its doors. This venture was founded by three sisters, Maria, Dina and Tania, and is literally inside their grandmother’s home, whose setting helped successfully achieve the sense of Arab authenticity. Each lesson teaches its hungry apprentices how to prepare different meals you typically do eat at beit sittek/ak, like ma’aloubeh or kufta, in a classical Jabal Weibdeh stone home, which, during summer, is held outdoors in the idyllic garden. Book a breakfast, lunch or dinner session for a doubly delicious and educational dining experience.
5 || Fakhreldin
It seems we’ve ventured out of hole-in-the-walls, and have entered the realm of old-homes-turned-delicious-eateries, and we’re not complaining — both are delicious, and Fakhreldin is a strong champion of the latter. This restaurant is a family-Friday frequent, and if you’ve yet to indulge in a heavy lunch here with your loved ones, you’re seriously missing out on a quintessential Jordanian activity. Head on over for bites of delicious appetizer-spreads, followed by irresistibly fried Sultan Ibrahim.
6 || Wild Jordan Cafe
Wild Jordan Cafe is on the newer side of Amman’s staple eateries, and their food certainly warrants that, but perhaps what makes this place extra special are their astonishing city views of old Jordan. Highlights include sesame-coated labaneh balls and rich tomato qalaya — perfect brunch fare — served alongside panoramic views of old downtown homes, our longstanding Jordanian flag and the historical Amman Citadel. Wild Jordan Cafe is also off Rainbow Street in the Jabal Amman district, whose character intensifies traditionality while also establishing where old and new Jordan harmoniously meet as one.
7 || Kan Zamaan
This long standing restaurant may be a tad far from Central Amman, but their gorgeous old setup and classic menu options are worth the trip. Kan Zamaan, a transformed 19th century farmhouse, tells its own story with the ancient, maintained stone interior that still holds almost all resemblances to the location it once was. It has rightfully established itself as the exemplar ancient landmark turned fine-dining establishment, boasting delicious Levantine cuisine in the process. Go for the history. Stay for the food.
This spot was originally a Jerash staple, but they’ve luckily cut the trip in half for us Amman residents since opening their doors at The House boutique hotel on 2rd Circle. Lebanese woman, Antoinette Rami, founded Um Khalil back in the 1970’s, according to their website, and thereby bestowed upon us the family-style, Arabic gem dreams are made of. Its opening in Jerash city, known for its rich history, sought to exemplify the tradition found in the food prepared there, and that essence has been equally restored even within the confines of their new Jabal Amman location.
9 || Zalatimo Sweets
Zalatimo Sweets was birthed in the ancient city of Jerusalem during the 1800’s, and has maintained its well-earned reputation as the Middle Eastern desserts spot in our 21st century Amman. I often find it hard to explain to my college friends in America what dairy means to our cuisine — we cook it for savory meals, and use cheeses that aren’t ricotta, cream or mascarpone for dessert, but the knafeh from Zalatimo Sweets is the answer to all questions anyone’s ever had about the deliciousness that is Arab delicacy, and its authentic history only exemplifies that fact.
10 || Habibah Sweets
Jerusalem was also the site of Habiba’s inception, where founder Al-Haj Mahmoud Habibah, dessert worker and connoisseur, opened his first knafeh shop. The legacy lives on today here in Amman when Habibah, with the help of family members, strove to open their Amman branch, which now has several locations that all conquer the regional dessert empire. Other Arabic delights are offered here, but if you skimp on their trademark, atir-soaked, perfectly-textured knafeh, you’re seriously missing out.