The new food hall vendor, which offers dishes inspired by countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, is one of the four hawker stall tenants which shares a commissary kitchen with Dairyland Old Fashioned Hamburgers & Frozen Custard and Mid-Way Bakery.
Middle East Side is owned and operated by Chef John Chandler, a Northern California native whose experience includes work at Mamoon, a Seattle restaurant which focuses on fare from Syria, Persia and Lebanon. More recently, he worked as sous chef under Chef Gregory Leon at Amilinda, 315 E Wisconsin Ave., where he launched the Middle East Side concept as a carry-out only lunch concept.
On the menu
The inaugural Middle East Side menu includes fan favorites from the inaugural Lebanese pop-up, including housemade man’oushe (Lebanese flatbread) sandwiches stuffed with lahm bi ajeen (ground beef, tomatoes and spiced pomegranate molasses, $14); shish taouk (lemon garlic chicken and tahini sauce, $14); and batinjan (eggplant roasted with ras el hanout, za’atar oil and herbed yogurt tahini sauce, $14).
Guests can also order harra frites (fries topped with harissa, jalapenos and herbs, $6); fatoush salad ($8), hummus ($6) or muhammara, a dip made with walnuts, red peppers and pomegranate molasses, $6. Guests can also order up slices of sticky-sweet baklava for dessert ($3).
Moving forward, Chandler says he plans to offer a happy hour mezze box filled with a spread of snacks including hummus, muhammara, shamandar (beet hummus), torshi (Persian pickled vegetables), crudites and pita bread.
In good company
Middle East Side joins a growing slate of tenants at the new Downtown food hall, which includes Dairyland (burgers, chicken sandwiches, frozen custard), Mid-Way Bakery (bakery, desserts, soups, salads, sandwiches), Amano Pan (breads, pizza), Hot Dish Pantry (pierogi, hot dish), Strega (appetizers, pastas, desserts) MaKE Waves (smoothies, juices, acai bowls).
Of course, there are still numerous vendors on the way, including the Strange Town Bottle Shop (natural wines, vegan grab and go items), Kawa 3rd Street (ramen, sushi), Dawg City (hot dogs, sausages), Anytime Arepas (Venezuelan arepas, desserts), Supernova Coffee & Doughnuts (doughnuts, coffee), Paper Plane Pizza (pizza), The Greenhouse (sandwiches, soups and salads) and Sweet Treats.
The food hall is now open seven days a week with hours Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (bar until 9 p.m.), Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (bar until 11 p.m.) and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.