Wafa Chami, chef at Wafa's, Forest Hills, Queens. Photo: Laura B. Weiss
There’s been quite a lot of buzz about Wafa’s lately, the homey Middle-Eastern eatery on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills. Mostly, the talk’s been about Wafa’s baba ghanoush, but there’s a lot more to this modest establishment than its savory eggplant dip.
There’s nothing fancy about Wafa’s. The room is small and plain and it’s mostly families and locals who frequent the place. Wafa Chami, a Lebanese native who came to the US in 1975 when she was 17, presides over the kitchen. And it’s a wondrous kitchen at that. Covering her blond hair with a baseball cap, Chami hunches over the stove preparing kibbe, falafel and a parade of other dishes. In fact, out of the small space, more compact than many home kitchens, comes some of the best Middle-Eastern food in the city.
If it feels like you’re eating at someone’s kitchen table, that’s because you are, indeed, eating Chami’s home cooking.
“I grew up in Lebanon, and these are all family recipes from my mother,” Chami told me one night when we decided to stop by Wafi’s for dinner after a stroll through lovely Forest Hills Gardens. “They’re old family recipes, from my mother, from my grandmother, from one generation to the next.”
Not only is the food sensational at Wafa’s, it’s an incredible deal. Four of us ate a multi-course dinner for under $100. The kibbe, moist and delicately spiced, was a steal at $8.00. I fell hard for the grape leaves—not your typical dry-as-sawdust cylinders, but moist and so flavorful that at $6.00 for a half-dozen of the succulent morsels, I didn’t hesitate to get two more orders. Piggy, yes. But they were simply the best gape leaves I’ve ever eaten.
Other dishes that scored high among our group were the fattoush ($8), and the chicken ($12.95) and lamb ($13.95) schawerma. The meats come with two sides. You can choose from any two of the following: green salad, okra, mujadarah, tabouleh, mousakaha, baba ganoush, French fries, and cauliflower.
The word has spread about Wafa’s. We got there at 6 pm to beat the mob. By 630, there was already a scrum of hungry fans waiting for a table to open up.
100-05 Metropolitan Ave
New York, NY 11375
718 880 2055