Local Lebanese mom & pop


Diana Sidorevich

Dinner, featuring house made pita bread which is made fresh daily in house.

Diana Sidorevich, Contributing Writer

Karam’s Middle East Bakery and Restaurant is a family owned Lebanese mom and pop restaurant run by Mary and Segean Karam since 1975. Lining the entry to the restaurant are shelves half-stocked with pitas, dates, halva, Za’atar bread, baklava and other Lebanese staples including baba ganoush, hummus, and tabbouleh.

Upon entering, the set-up may seem overwhelming, rustic and the patrons aged. But if you stick around, you’re in for a delicious meal. Popular menu items are the Lebanese salad with chicken and feta; the Freedman Special including a gyro over rice with lettuce, tomato, and yogurt sauce; and the pole bean salad. They also offer different weekday specials.

The atmosphere of the restaurant feels like a home, with Segean as the parental figure.

“People come here for the Segean experience,” the waitress, Esther Viti, said.

The dining room is like a family photo gallery— featuring Segean with his friends as state police in Lebanon assigned to ski patrol; photos of his sons and their wives and children; and images of Lebanon. In the home-style restaurant, only the tables were bare until the waitress brought a woven basket with two plastic bags of pita triangles inside.

Inspired by Mr. Karam over tales of Lebanon and glasses of lemon water, I went with a seasonal special and ordered Kousa and baba ganoush for lunch.

The meal, served surprisingly quick, was nourishing and wholesome.

Kousa is a popular Middle Eastern dish of small zucchini stuffed with ground beef and rice seasoned with lemon juice, garlic, and spices including mint, all cooked in tomato juice to a tender perfection. Baba ganoush is an appetizer consisting of roasted eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, seasonings, and tahini. 

The menu features fresh vegetables, lentils, beans, grains, spices, herbs, and meats, highlighted by lemon, enveloped in pita. Prices range from $5 for small appetizers to $9 for large specials.

After lunch, I was given a tour of the kitchen. The space contained an industrial Lebanese pita-making machine, with several turns of the conveyor belt. The machine is one of its kind between Syracuse, Watertown, and Buffalo, Mr. Karam said. It rolls out hundreds of pitas an hour, proofing each loaf twice and finishing it off in 10 seconds in the oven the size of a small shed.

Forgo your American expectations and prepare for an authentic Lebanese experience when you step through the doors into this corner of Middle Eastern culture.