Knowing another language isn’t exactly an exceptional skill. People won’t wave you over at cocktail parties saying, “You all have to meet Barry - he speaks French!” But it is something that’s generally pretty useful. Which makes it a lot like Zizi Limona, a Middle Eastern spot in Williamsburg that’s not the most exciting place in the neighborhood, but still comes in handy for lots of different occasions.
Zizi Limona looks like countless other casual restaurants nearby, with an interior heavy on wood and exposed brick, a small bar lined with wine bottles, and a couple of tables on the sidewalk outside. But unlike other unmemorable neighborhood spots where you’d only eat if Time Warner gave you a three-hour arrival window and you needed to stay close by, you’ll actually look forward to having a meal here.
One reason why is that the food is really good. There’s a selection of small plates to start with - like crunchy little squares of falafel over curry yogurt, or a light, creamy hummus topped with a pool of olive oil - and you could easily make a meal out of just those, especially since they come with as much complimentary fresh pita as you want. But you should share some of the large plates as well. Our favorite is the shawarma: a huge portion of hummus, chickpeas, and charred onions topped with strips of spiced chicken and lamb, and some green tahini on top. Whether you’re with vegetarians or people who like getting multiple types of meat on a single plate, there are options for everyone.
Plus, the environment works just as well for a casual dinner with your parents as it does for a first dinner date. You could come with a big group, or sit at the 10-seat bar and have a healthy solo meal while trying to figure out the deal with this playlist of Janet Jackson, M.I.A, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Regardless, you’ll be served by genuinely friendly staff who’ll make you comfortable no matter how much you order or how long you hang out.
This place is in the heart of Williamsburg, a few blocks from Bedford Ave and a short walk from the Lorimer L stop. So the next time you need to choose a spot for dinner before seeing a show at the The Knitting Factory or drinking too many pina coladas at The Commodore, remember that Zizi Limona is here, and will probably work perfectly for whatever you need.
The falafel alone makes this dish a must-order - it’s crunchy, packed with flavor, and doesn’t fall apart when you cut into it. But it also comes with curry yogurt, pickled cabbage, charred onion, and tomato salsa. Put everything together on some fresh pita and you’ll be very happy.
This is the Toyota RAV4 of hummus. It’s not flashy or loaded with unnecessary features, but it’s reliable and works for groups. Plus, the big portion will make you happy that you can get as much warm, complimentary pita as you want (you’re going to want a lot).
This baba ganoush is mixed with feta and basil, which sounds like it could be good, but those ingredients actually overwhelm the best part of the dish - the charred, smoky eggplant. It ends up tasting like cheesy pesto, and we’d recommend any of the other starters instead.
This comes packed in pita with tomato salsa, grilled onions, and smoky baba ganoush, but the main flavor still comes from the chunks of gamey lamb. A reliably good dish.
While you might think of this as more of a brunch order, you should also consider it at dinner. This version basically tastes like a spicy roasted tomato stew, and if you’re the kind of person who thinks dipped bread is the best part of any soup, you’ll be happy (once again) about all the free pita.
Unless you’re a vegetarian, this should be on your table. A huge mound of hummus is topped with strips of spiced chicken and lamb, and the juices from the meats combine with the charred onions and green tahini to create a lot of strong, really enjoyable flavors. This portion is easily enough to fill you up if you’re alone, but it’s also great to split with a group.