Hummus Kitchen | 1613 2nd Ave. (84th St.) | 212.988.0090 |
I DON'T USUALLY ENJOY HAVING to admit when I'm wrong. But I was, and in not one but two regards. The recession hit pretty much every neighborhood in the city, including the demographically affluent Upper East Side. Venerated establishments were closing for good weekly and the only restaurants that weren't shuttering were fast food/takeout joints, the types of places that promise $5 footlong sandwiches and beef tacos for under a buck.

Soon, however, a sign appeared on a then empty store—across the street (2nd Avenue) from my second place of employ, a restaurant with which I've been associated for over 20 years—implying that not only did some company have the temerity to try to open a food place in the very neighborhood that had seen the death of at least 8 restaurants in the last year, but also planned to feature healthy, vegetarian (?!) food!

The name proudly featured on this sign was for a place called Hummus Kitchen, and my first reaction was to feel sorry for them. I believed there were no fans of Mediterranean vegetarian cooking, at least not in a neighborhood known for mainly to eating demographics: young revelers tempering their inebriation with a late-night slice or fighting their hangovers with delivery Chinese or pub-issue bacon & cheese omelets, or parents codifying their young scribes with diner-style pancakes or aforementioned pizza.

Well, not long after their spring opening, I started to notice that the small yet comfy space was packed, pretty much from the beginning of lunch through to the end of their dinner service. And often with large groups of people waiting outside for over half an hour waiting to be seated themselves!

So, early summer, I ventured in, curious to see what all the fuss was about. Still busy, I opted to get a takeout lunch, their special which offers three of their Mazze items, for $8.95. I got the falafel, couscous, and signature hummus, and all of it was good!

I've ordered from there about once a week since then, and fully understand the food's popularity. In a neighborhood full of bad food choices—prepackaged, frozen to deep-fried or microwaved—this is just what the area needed. I healthy alternative of fresh prepared, made-to-order meals that, in this economy, are well within your guilt-free budget guidelines.

This is PHUDE, however, so I'd be remiss if I didn't get to the photos. Earlier today, I had actually planned to try out a new Italian trattoria a few blocks away called Gina (la fornarina), but the manager there didn't have the authority to allow me to photograph their food (yeah, what?), which is the first time so far that that has happened!

So I left having paid for a ginger ale I didn't even get to drink (I offered to pay since they had already poured it), and walking back home, stepped passed Hummus Kitchen's familiarly clean front window and decided, why-the-hell-not?, I might as well do a quick lunch right here and post that.


So, prepared with camera, I enter, the post lunch crowd noticeably thinner thanks in part to the now colder weather and part to the unfortunate construction of the 2nd Avenue subway, which blocked their storefront for a month and a have and now as well has literally cut their sidewalk in half. The place is still as cozy as ever, with a tasteful minimum of exotica in the decor.


The olives the preset the tables with are pleasing starting visual and aromatic, tossed in some olive oil, citrus, and spices. Everything on the menu becomes immediately more appetizing, as I order-for only the third time in-house—my usual: Mixed Platter with Hummus, Couscous, and Falafel.

Olive bowl

Hummus Kitchen Menu

The food comes out quickly, brought out by very pretty, friendly, and courteous young ladies (if hadn't been so entertained by the older gentlemen trying to impress one of them I might have myself taken over the role of "that guy"!). The spread is colorful and bright and joined by a toasty warm fluffy but just firm pita.

Mazze mixed platter

In general, and throughout, the meal's flavors were as bright and fresh and present as the visuals. Earthy couscous was complimented by fresh mint and mellowed by the earthiness of tomato. Nutty, smooth couscous was enlivened just a tad by some spice and oil, then textured with whole chick peas. Warm falafels with crunchy sesame-seeded exteriors hid light mouthfuls of gritty chick pea grounds elevated by the hints of fresh herbs that appeal to the tongue and nose.





Although light in appearance, I have yet to fully finish a liunch meal here, opting to take the remainder of my couscous and hummus—the obvious culprit—to go. I do, however, elect to order dessert for the very first time.

The waitress recommends some called knaffe, which she describes with a wide smile and big beautiful eyes (and, no, I'm not writing this as if she's going to read it!) as crispy phyllo dough over goat cheese with chopped pistachio and a honey syrup.

SInce I've had the other desserts before (baklava and malabi), I go with the knaffe. One of the best decisions I've ever made. I'm not much of a sweets person; I can enjoy the first spoonful or too, but I've always been averse to anything that left a film of sugar all around my teeth and gums. This dessert was perfect for me. The goat cheese was warm with its inherent subtle dairy flavor charm, the chopped phyllo flavored with orange had a great crisp to them, the pistachios ground to almost a powder added some tart nuttiness, and the honey syrup—less viscous than plain honey—brought the whole thing together quite nicely.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my new favorite dessert...!



Even my friend and co-working waitress, Ally, agrees with me on how great this dessert is! She got the other two thirds of it that I likewise took out of the restaurant with me (I was full!).

I pay near the back and thank all the nice young ladies for their great service (wish I could be writing the same thing about the waitress at Gina, who was actually quite helpful and courteous!) and take a last look at the room before leaving, loving the fact that I live right across the street and knowing I would be home in mere seconds.


I did stop at the restaurant first, to let Ally try the knaffe, which she gratefully devoured, and, after realizing that this is the second or third time that I, a 43-year old man, had brought Ally, a 22-year old girl, a dessert from one of my PHUDE blogs, I started to wonder: Am I that guy...?!

Bun Apple Tea!


Hummus Kitchen | 1613 2nd Ave. (84th St.) | 212.988.0090 |