Breakfast has become a lost art form. And it’s easy to see why - most people’s weekday schedules barely give them enough time to slam a granola bar and a cup of instant coffee in the car, let alone indulge in a full meal. On weekends, the most important meal of the day has been replaced by the mimosa-soaked hellshow some people call “brunch.” These days, the idea of going out of your way to eat breakfast seems almost unfathomable, but perhaps all you’ve needed is a better reason to do so. We’ve got one for you - Forn Al Hara.
Located in Anaheim’s Little Arabia neighborhood, Forn Al Hara is a family-run Lebanese bakery and a long-standing pillar of one of the largest Middle Eastern communities in America. It’s also home to a Levantine breakfast so consistently perfect we will forever go out of our way to experience it. And it’s time you did, too.
Now, it should be stated that Forn Al Hara is actually open every day from 8am-10pm (11pm on the weekends), so you can come here anytime you want and have a great meal. But it’s in the mornings when this casual, order-at-the-counter spot is at its best. Walking in at 8:45am, smelling the manaeesh (Mediterranean flatbreads) wafting from the ovens, staring at the rows of baklava and knafeh glimmering like sugared trophies in the baked goods case, and watching the whole neighborhood trickle in with their coffee and newspapers is the type of communal magic you forget still exists in the world. But then the food starts to hit the table and you realize this extraordinary journey has just begun.
At first glance, Forn Al Hara’s menu can feel a bit overwhelming, but the breakdown is fairly simple: There’s the manaeesh (both regular and mini-sized), a wrap and pizza section you can ignore, and a dessert/sweets section you can’t. Depending on how many people you’re with, your order should include as many manaeesh as you can fit on your table (and maybe a few you can’t), a half-dozen fatayer (tiny spinach pies), and a couple of knafeh, noodle-like cheese pastries topped with pistachios that are an excellent excuse to eat dessert before 9am. But let’s take a second and talk more about the manaeesh, because they’re the real reason you’re here.
Forn Al Hara has well over 30 different kinds, ranging from chicken chipotle to cheese and eggs, and they’re all good. That’s because when the flatbread itself is as buttery, fluffy, and simultaneously crispy as it is here, the toppings are almost arbitrary. We love the sujuk (cured beef sausage) with cheese, the lahem bel ajeen (ground beef with veggies and tomatoes), and the sweet and spicy muhamara (hot pepper spread made with pomegranate molasses). If you’re feeling healthy-ish and want to get your vegetables in early, go for the zatar with veggie flat. It’s a tangy mix of herbs and spices topped with a mountain of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and black olives. But perhaps the item you’ll be thinking and texting about most afterwards is the Cheese Boat. This aptly named dish comes with bubbling white cheese trapped inside a crispy bread canoe, and is as simple as it is soul-curing.
We understand the hesitancy to extend any type of effort for a decent breakfast these days, but when you have the opportunity to experience a truly excellent version - like one at Forn Al Hara - you take it every time. Don’t call it a comeback.
If it’s your first time to Forn Al Hara, this dish will absolutely hit your table. Not only because this cheese-filled bread canoe is one of the best things on the menu, but because there’s also a solid chance the owners won’t let you leave without ordering it. Follow their lead. Tip: If you’re looking for a little pop of spice, ask for some chili flakes on top.
We love this one because the muhamara is equally spicy and sweet, but also incredibly light. You can get it topped with cheese as well, but we prefer it naked. That’s not official terminology, but it feels right.
We usually order a half-dozen of these tiny spinach-filled pies thinking we’ll have some left to take home. We’ve yet to actually leave the restaurant with any.
It’s easy to get caught up in the inevitable manaeesh parade at Forn Al Hara, but you need to make room for the knafeh. These crunchy, syrup-y noodle pasties are an absolute godsend of flavor and the best excuse we’ve found to eat dessert before going into work.
At this point in your meal at Forn Al Hara, you’ll be thrilled to see some vegetables hit the table, particularly ones as fresh as the tomatoes, cucumbers, and black olives that come with the zatar.
Not counting the Cheese Boat, this is our favorite manaeesh here. The sujuk (dry, cured sausage) is salty and spicy and cuts through the mild white cheese baked on top perfectly. When we say we want a pizza party, this is what you should show up with.