Abu’s, which was opened originally by Alice and Khalil "Abu" Nasr (the original “Abu” passed away in the early 1980s) closed for a remodel a short time ago, and has now reopened its doors with the same good quality Middle Eastern cuisine that made them the darling of local media throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Recent years have left little in print about the family-run eatery, but the food remains above the mark for Middle Eastern delicacies such as fresh hummus (seasoned chickpea puree), shawerma (shaved beef and lamb, similar to a Greek gyro), and falafel (a fried ball of fava beans and chickpeas), not to mention a bountiful selection of both vegetarian and vegan entrees, all priced in pennies. A meal for two at Abu’s will leave you satisfied for under $25.
The menu is simple but packs some punch, and items are delightfully priced for one or two persons. Soups include a selection of lentil ($1.25) and an interesting Egyptian fava bean chili ($2.45) garnished with slices of ripe green peppers and tomato.
A lunch combo plate ($7.95 for one) included baba ghanouge (a whipped roasted eggplant dip with tahini -- sesame seed sauce), tabuleh (crushed wheat with parsley, mint, tomato, onion, oil, and lemon juice), ful m’damas (crushed fava bean dip), shawerma, falafel, and a Middle Eastern salad with tahini dressing, served with warm grilled pita bread. The hummus, which appears in both the lunch combo and the salad plate that comes with entrée selections, was some of the best we have tried -- rich and creamy and seasoned to perfection.
If fresh flavors and healthy cuisine are your calling, we found both in abundance, with fresh chopped herbs and delicious diced vegetables in just about every dish.
Even the meat dishes -- the shawerma sandwich ($6.45) and the meat combo for two ($16) -- were delightfully fresh and the meats had been seasoned and grilled; we found the chicken a bit dry, but the shawerma in both dishes was delicately spiced and tender, and the Middle Eastern kabob was tender and juicy on the inside, and grilled to a delightful char on the outside. The saffron rice was our only disappointment. While good, it lacked the saffron punch we had been anticipating.
We, like so many before us, fell in love with the rosewater lemonade ($1.25). A lovely medium between sweet roses and tart lemons, it was a great foil to the spices in the cuisine. Abu’s also features Arabian coffees, with appropriately patinated coffee urns in place for serving.
With its tiny, quiet corner location on the East Side, Abu’s provides a warm solace with good, fresh food for every walk of life.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.