Over the past year, David Ina has worked to transform the old-school Huron Square Deli space in the Halle Building into a bright and breezy fast-casual Middle Eastern concept called Zaytoon Lebanese Kitchen
(1150 Huron Rd. E., 216-795-5000). The Playhouse Square eatery is on track to open its doors this Monday, July 10.
“I’ve had this idea for a long time,” says Ina, who along with his parents also runs the popular Al’s Deli (1717 E. 9th St., 216-589-9223) on the main floor of the Residences at 1717. “It’s a fast-casual Lebanese eatery where everything can be made and served quickly.”
The breakfast and lunch operation has an open kitchen, where everything is made from scratch and prepared to order. A pair of shawarmas – chicken thigh and Certified Angus Beef tri-tip – spin lazily behind the counter. A beefy two-level deck oven turns out fresh-baked pita, meat pies and Za'atar flatbreads. Plump falafel balls and hand-cut fries emerge from the bubbling oil in the deep fryer.
“Everything that we are doing here is made from scratch – the pita bread, pickled turnips, labneh (Lebanese yogurt), hummus and desserts,” Ina explains.
In the morning, diners can order breakfast pitas filled with egg, spinach and feta; egg, olives, artichokes and red peppers; or egg, slow roasted leg of lamb, roasted garlic and fresh mint.
At lunch, bowls of lentil soup and tabbouleh, fattoush and falafel salads join meat or spinach pies, and rolled pitas filled with beef shawarma, chicken shishtawook, and crispy falafel. Just three entrees are available, platters of either shishtawook, shawarma or falafel paired with a choice of salads and spreads.
Ina says that he plans to integrate online ordering and payment so that customers can pop in and out in under five minutes.
“Zaytoon” means olive in Lebanese, notes Ina.
“The core of Lebanese food always starts with really good olive oil,” Ina says.