Soufi’s was founded by Syrian newcomers who are bringing a taste of home they couldn’t find anywhere to Toronto. They specialize in freshly oven-cooked manaeesh flatbreads stuffed with meats, cheeses and veggies and cheesy, sweet knaffeh pies.
The chef and sous chef are newcomers, too. The restaurant is run by the Soufi family, with daughter Jala as the anchor, though her proud parents and brother help out too.
She also helped design the place, her friend and her making DIY shelves that contain various Syrian items like traditional hats and instruments.
Knaffeh ($5), savoury sweet mini pies, come in two varieties, na’meh or khishne, the latter topped with shredded phyllo, the former with a smooth semolina dough made from scratch.
Both are topped with crumbled pistachio and self-dressed with a sweet orange blossom syrup and contain a stretchy mix of mozzarella, akawi, and ricotta cheeses.
Manaeesh are not as cheap as others I’ve seen, but they’re pretty huge and the ingredients taste fresh. If you’ve never eaten it before, picture if a mini pizza and a pita wrap had a baby.
Fillings for manaeesh are typically simple, such as labneh ($5.75), halloumi ($7.25), or plenty of vegan options like aromatic zaatar ($4.75), mhammara pepper paste ($6), or spinach ($6).
A sujuk manaeesh of spiced beef and peppers and a differently spiced sfeeha beef manaeesh (both $7) with onions, tomato and peppers both provide some of the heartier options for carnivores.
The fast street food is also baked to order in about five minutes.
You can also add fresh ingredients like tomato, cucumber or olives for 25 cents, or avocado, labneh or cheese for a dollar, beefing up your handheld snack a little and adding some texture.
Mixes like egg and cheese ($7.25) as well as zaatar and cheese, which in themselves are two of the most ordered types of manaeesh on their own, are especially popular.
This spot is a relaxing and cheerful place to dine, but manaeesh are the ultimate handheld food on the go as well, making a great meal any time of day. The bread is crispy and crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside with flavourful fillings baked right into the middle.
They’re using Hale Espresso to brew up espresso-based coffee, great with Syrian snacks or just on the go in the morning.
The space is bright and colourful, casual with mostly high seating, and it doesn’t hurt that they have WiFi and USB outlets. An airy garage window opens to look out over eccentric West Queen West.
Could manaeesh and knaffeh be what’s missing from your Middle Eastern shawarma and falafel routine? Come here to find out.