South Side Shawarma

Zaytune brings Middle Eastern food to Bridgeport

Bridgeport has never been known as a dining destination. But a few recent additions have upped its culinary cred: Han 202, Nana and, most recently, Zaytune, a counter-service Middle Eastern spot that takes its shawarma very seriously.

Chef Daniel Sarkiss, who opened Zaytune in December, may be cooking his Assyrian parents' food, but he's doing it with an eye for freshness and gentle innovation that comes from years in the culinary industry.

Rather than being shaved off a rotisserie spit, chicken and steak destined for shawarma bathe in rosemary, garlic and allspice before a quick turn on the grill. Dark meat devotees will appreciate that the chicken (pictured) is thigh meat–arguably the bird's most flavorful part.

It comes wrapped in supple, freshly grilled flatbread or on a mound of buttery basmati rice, with spicy tahini-dressed salad and piquant pickled vegetables–which Sarkiss soaks in vinegar with garlic, bay, jalepeños and beets–on the side.

Pair it with smoky, spicy baba ghanoush, and cucumber salad dressed in tangy house-made yogurt with fresh dill and cayenne pepper.

The nearly omnipresent jalepeños and cayenne are a departure from standard American-Middle Eastern fare. Sarkiss lays off only when it comes to dessert–and spikes his walnut baklava with orange-blossom water and lemon juice instead.

Zaytune Mediterranean Grill, 3129 S. Morgan; 773-254-6300 or zaytunegrill.com