Although I’m Armenian, my parents immigrated here from Lebanon after they got married. Being raised in the Middle East, they were immersed in the foods and cultures of the region, which they passed down to my siblings and me.
As I grew older, I came to realize that most of my favorite foods that I grew up on turned out to be Middle Eastern rather than Armenian. Unfortunately, I never picked up the knack for cooking really good Armenian or Middle Eastern food like my mom does so when I’m craving something that tastes like home I often have to turn to some of the Lebanese bakeries and restaurants nearby.
Recently, I have been hearing a lot of buzz about a Lebanese bakery cafe that opened in La Crescenta, Shanto’s Bakery. Unlike other Lebanese bakeries who offer bags of pre-made lahmajoun, cheese pies and manaish over a counter that you grab and go, Shanto’s Bakery prepares fresh food for each order.
With a quick sweep of the menu it was too hard to pick just one thing so I asked the owner to surprise me with their most popular dishes. What I was given was a plethora of tasty Lebanese favorites such as zaatar and cheese (my personal favorite!), lahmajoun, a grilled halloumi pita wrap, chicken and cheese manaish, esfiha, a lean ground beef mixed with pomegranate sauce, onions and traditional Lebanese spices, and patata harra, spicy fries, garlic sauce, tahini and vegetables wrapped in a freshly baked pita bread.
The smells, flavors and texture of the food delighted the senses and made for a really exciting and satisfying lunch. Everything was so authentically Lebanese with a fresh twist, bringing a little bit of the Old World to La Crescenta.
Garinee Soudjian is a writer, blogger who is passionate about food and community. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.