Comfort food is different for everyone. Some people are all in on Grandma’s meatloaf, some people are brought to their happy place by soup (weird), some people feel most fulfilled when they’re eating freshly baked Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies. But we’re here to proclaim that the Eastern Mediterranean comfort food coming out of the kitchen at Tawla is some of the best you’ll find in San Francisco.
What exactly is this incredible comfort food that we'd argue is better than any Grandma's meatloaf (sorry, Grandma)? Don’t expect any hummus or falafel - the food here is all hearty roasted vegetables, fantastic rice dishes, and simple meats like chicken and meatballs with a ton of flavor. Lots of things are charred, burnt, or roasted, and we welcome all the fire involved because apparently the best way to make cauliflower is to burn it (and definitely not to make it into a fake version of rice).
The space is quite pretty, and feels a bit like a Moroccan bazaar with tiles, funky patterns on the walls, and geometric hanging lights. The service is wonderful - the owner (raised in Jordan and, fun fact: formerly employed by Google) hangs out and chats up all the tables and brings you strange yet delicious underripe plums as an appetizer. (Go easy on the salt dipping on those - we learned the hard way.) The wine list has some local winners and is priced in a way that doesn’t make you want to rip your eyeballs out. And while we're on that subject, tip here is included - so while Tawla isn't cheap, it's also not as pricey as you might think from a quick glance at the menu.
Full pods of beans, tempura-ed and hot. Similar to fried green beans, but actually a million times better. They’re light and addictive and come with a tasty almond sauce. Only on the menu in the spring and early summer, so mark your calendar.
Cauliflower should forever and for always only be served charred. Specifically, charred like Tawla's. It’s crispy and spectacular and the tahini and toasted sesame seeds take it to the next level. This keeps us up at night.
Bread and dip are highly recommended by the waiters, and while we love the walnut pepper dip, the pita bread is a little dense for us.
A traditional and super delicious dish of rice and lentils and most importantly, fried shallots on top. One of our favorite things on the menu.
The roasted almonds and crispy pita bread make this salad. We are very into it.
Maybe not what you expect when you order musaka, Tawla’s version is rich, baby roasted eggplants. If you’re on the fence about eggplant, this will change your mind. Eggplants are the best plants.
The sauce is rich and brothy, and no one will complain about these. Not a must-order, but if you have picky eaters, they’ll be pleased.
Sensing a theme? Tawla has an oven and they know how to use it. The octopus is just the right amount of burnt, which seems to be a pretty exact science.
A roasted chicken with tons of pine nuts and a pomegranate sauce. Great to share and extremely good.
Tawla is so committed to Middle Eastern food that they even use chickpea flour. Dedication, people. This cake is fine but a tad dry.