There’s a sprawling, steel light fixture that encompasses the majority of Suraya’s cafe area. It’s the first thing we notice when we walk in, and my friend and I stop to admire the cozy glow emanating from the hanging bulbs. Still, in the daytime, they’re hardly necessary; the place—all 12,000 feet of it—is flooded with light from the stretch of windows that overlook a row of quirky, multi–colored Fishtown townhouses.
Inside, during a 3:00 pm afternoon lull, a few patrons are clacking away on their laptops in the cafe, and a few more are tucked away into the main dining hall, catching up with old friends over hummus, pita, and maybe cocktails. Suraya, named after the grandmother of two of the owners, carries the charm of a rustic Middle Eastern bazaar, with a menu that includes everything from Lebanese flatbreads to pastries and tea.
The entrance leads directly into the cafe, which has a coffee bar (that also serves mimosas!) and intimate, two person tables dotted around the expansive, tile–covered interior. Suraya’s back wall is lined with a variety of merchandise for sale: olive oil, wine, tablecloths, pottery, and soap just to name a few things. Further in, the cafe transforms into a restaurant, bordered by a bar the stretches all the way to the back entrance, where garden seating will debut sometime in the summer.
Behind the bar, chefs hustle around the gleaming open kitchen, assembling hummus platters, frying falafel, and baking flatbreads. We start off with Mezze platter–an interesting mix of hot and cold dips complete with a “six minute” soft–boiled egg covered in crushed cashews. The Labne—a thick, yogurt–based dip with the consistency of cream cheese—is a standout, perfect when paired with the freshly–baked pita. But the rest of the platter pales in comparison to the Man’oushe, a Lebanese flatbread. We order the cheese Man’oushe with tomato, onion, pepper, parsley, and egg; it’s perfectly portioned for two people and once cut, the egg oozes onto the thin crust, which makes us feel just a touch healthier as we devour it.
We also order the baba ghanoush plate with eggplant, tehina, urfa, and pomegranate. The pomegranate layered on top of the tehina adds a sweetness to the natural bitterness of the dip. A lot of Suraya’s dishes involve a little kick that belies their appearance; the herb falafel sandwich has crunchy falafel wrapped in pillowy pita bread, but the pickles add a vinegar sharpness that surprises us.
Ending on a sweet note, the tehina yogurt blows us away. The thick yogurt is covered with crushed almonds, pomegranate seeds, and drizzled date syrup. While not cloyingly sweet, the date syrup is a nice touch, amplifying the natural sweetness of the pomegranate, and the portion size is big enough that we don’t mind sharing, even as our spoons clash against each other while scooping out the remains of the glass bowl.
By the time we leave, the sun is starting to set, casting a shadow over the cafe. A few people are still hunched over their laptops, mugs in hand. The bell jingles as we exit, and just like that, the spell is broken and we’re back on the winding roads of Fishtown.
TL;DR: A mid–day adventure tucked against the whimsy of Fishtown.
Location: 1528 Frankford Avenue
Tuesday–Sunday: 7:00 am–5:00 pm