Friday, August 28, 2015Mostly Cloudy 21°C


Posted by Liora Ipsum / Profiled on January 25, 2015 / review policy

Sababa TorontoSababa is one part restaurant, one part Middle Eastern grocer, located on the north side of Steeles east of Bathurst. It's been a business since 1987, and I've certainly been a regular customer since then.

I remember the restaurant getting a makeover at some point, but still it looks dated. The furnishings aren't especially comfortable and the dining room is carpeted, for god sakes (usually this would be an immediate deal-breaker for me) but, with that said, please don't let this dissuade you from eating here - it is well worth your while.

Sababa TorontoThe restaurant comes alive in the evenings when large parties pack into the 120-seat dining room, but during the day you'll find only the odd table occupied. Most people just hit the walk-up counter in the back of the retail side for incredibly cheap pita pockets stuffed with shawarma ($5.95), falafel balls ($3.75), and my personal favourite, fried eggplant ($3.95).

Sababa TorontoThe menu also lists cold dips, salads, hot appetizers, grilled meats and seafoods, and fried specialties. Turkish salad, the Israeli name for matbucha, is another favourite. It's a sharp garlicky tomato paste dip, best paired with labneh to mellow it out, or, house-made hummus sweetened with roasted red peppers.

The baba ganoush (with mayo or taheena) here is the standard I hold all other eggplant dips to. I've tried to replicated it at home and I've tried to search out something comparable downtown without success. Here, it's creamy, garlicky and a little chunky.

Sababa TorontoFalafels ($5) are served with thick hummus with a pool of taheena at its centre. They're petite balls, so the ratio of crispy fried exterior to light fluffy interior is on point.

Sababa TorontoThe shawarma ($15), a flavourful pile of chopped chicken bits, is served alongside saffron-scented rice. Everything should be shared, eaten with hands using torn pita to swipe up the dips and pinch shawarma and falafels into folds.

Sababa TorontoShould you choose to sit in the dining room, it is still a requisite part of any visit to hit the store on the way out. Consider it a souvenir shop, if you will. Essential items to stock up on are: the house-made dips, salads, halva, six-packs of Malt Star beer (non-alcoholic, BTW), and most importantly, the puffy, chewy pita.

Sababa TorontoMade in-house daily, the pita bakes on a conveyor belt and drops off the line as an inflated balloon. They're packaged by the half dozen in plastic bags which will fog up in the mornings as they're still steaming.

Sababa TorontoCredit my passion to sentimental ties, but it's not every day I can say I've been patronizing a restaurant for 25 or more years. With the recent rise of Middle Eastern eateries popping up across the city, I personally feel that this place was long overdue for some recognition.

Sababa TorontoPhotos by Jesse Milns



Yuri / January 25, 2015 at 01:03 pm
Just a quick correction - matbucha is a North African salad. The Israeli "Turkish Salad" is the Turkish Ezme and is made of bell peppers, onions, parsley and cilantro in tomato paste with hints of cumin. It is crispier and spicier than matbucha.
Wikipedia got it wrong this time.
John Labatt / January 25, 2015 at 04:08 pm
looks like bum dip do people really eat here
Angie / January 25, 2015 at 04:23 pm
Best middle eastern food I've ever had. Their hummus is to die for.... damn it, now I'm gonna have to drive up north for dinner!
The Real / January 25, 2015 at 05:58 pm
10/10. This place is the real deal
Val Awful / January 25, 2015 at 06:56 pm
I love their hummus so much that whenever we go up there to eat, I always stop by the store afterwards to buy some to take home, along with pitas and some of their spice blends.
suzan / January 25, 2015 at 08:56 pm
This family run restaurant is just like eating at home. Everything is made fresh with real ingredients. Every time I'm in the area I pick up a bag (or two!) of the fresh sesame pitas and grab some hummus too. I highly recommend you give them a try!!
Bellydance / January 25, 2015 at 10:44 pm
I liked Bob's thoughtful comment so much, I've decided to eat here everyday and hold a few extra work lunches here too with staff. #ignorantbobshouldfinishhighschool
Dr. Mantis / January 25, 2015 at 11:16 pm
This place is good. There is a me va me express close-by but I still go here anyways.
doc mantis / January 26, 2015 at 04:13 am
hands down, the best shawarma, falafel and pita in the city. And I am really critical about my shawarma pitas.
Essen Chef / January 26, 2015 at 11:59 am
This restaurant helped me find a love for middle eastern food. Best pita in the city, best tahini, amazing everything else. If you are feeling adventurous, or if you're me and just hungry, try the chicken heart sandwich... its amazing. Seriously though, will ruin all the crappy fast middle eastern food in the city for you.
The Real replying to a comment from James / January 28, 2015 at 03:57 pm
I can promise you I'm not an owner. Who the hell are you though? This place isn't expensive & the food is most certainly not old. Morons posting on this site
Andrew / March 6, 2015 at 07:25 pm
Sababa should have been reviewed like 15 years ago

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