New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Indulge in bold Lebanese flavors on a budget at Hen House

Located in the East Village, Hen House serves up aromatic and authentic Lebanese cuisine.
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Krish Dev
Hen House NYC, a Lebanese restaurant on First Avenue. (Krish Dev for WSN)

My dad is from Lebanon, meaning I take annual trips back to the country and get to try authentic foods that I always miss living in the city. Each time I go back, I crave shawarma — the ones with those loaded fries inside and thick pickles that take a second for your teeth to fully bite through. Then, there’s the garlic in the wrap — the kind of umami that lingers on your hands and mouth for a few hours after finishing the meal. I’ve been a New Yorker for nearly two years now, and Hen House on First Avenue is the first spot I’ve stumbled upon that satisfies my cravings, helping me get a taste of Lebanon without having to buy a plane ticket.

Walking into the location, which opened a few weeks ago, I wasn’t expecting to be greeted by loud rap music — the kind I’d likely ask my sister to turn off in the car. Surprisingly, the music was energizing, working well with the coziness of the small space.

When conceptualizing the idea for his restaurant, founder Antony Nassif wanted to bring the Lebanese flavors of his home to the city. What started as a booth in Smorgasburg soon transformed into a restaurant. Nassif makes everything at the location himself, creating a truly authentic experience

“I grew up eating Lebanese food. My grandparents cooked Lebanese food, and so did my dad. I am from Montreal originally, so there was a big Lebanese community and tons of shawarma places,” Nassif said. “I moved to New York eight years ago, and I was like, ‘Why can’t I get a shawarma like this in the city?’”

Nassif’s dishes revolve around the use of garlic, which creates a bold flavor profile that mixes with his slow-roasted lamb shawarma sandwich. With every bite, I could vividly taste each ingredient, from the parsley on top to the fresh tomatoes in the wrap. Unlike most of the shawarma sandwiches you get in the city’s halal carts, Nassif’s pita had soft potatoes tucked into the sandwich — just like they do in Lebanon.

A wrap with parsley, lamb and potatoes in a paper container.
Slow-roasted lamb shawarma. (Krish Dev for WSN)

The Chicken Pita Supreme is also the way to go if you feel like experiencing an explosion of flavors. The pita is packed with eggplant, Lebanese pickles and sumac onion, and the chicken is so tender that it will practically melt in your mouth. I recommend adding Nassif’s own piri-piri sauce which lines every table for an acidic kick.

A wrap with chicken, eggplant, pickles and onions in a paper container.
Chicken Pita Supreme. (Krish Dev for WSN)

With every item on his menu, Nassif prioritizes affordability, and most of the pitas range from around $13 to $20. 

“I wanted this to be a place where everyone could come and get some food for a super affordable place — not have my baseline be $20,” Nassif said. “I also don’t want you to go to the halal carts and get a shitty pita for the same price. I would rather you come here and get good quality stuff at a super affordable price.”

The restaurant also offers an array of sides, ranging from dips to salads. I opted for the batata harra, a dish that features cilantro potatoes with a side of garlic sauce and harrisa. While I am a fan of hearty dishes with an extra serving of carbs, I don’t think the $10 price tag was worth it. The potatoes certainly lived up to expectations in terms of crispiness. However, the flavor of the garlic sauce was a bit overwhelming, and I was struggling to strike the perfect balance of sauce on the potatoes. I would recommend sticking to the pitas offered — you’ll probably appreciate the flavors more. 

Cilantro potatoes with a side of garlic sauce in a paper container.
Batata harra. (Krish Dev for WSN)

If you want to try a new experience that deviates from the typical halal carts throughout the city, try Hen House. While it might not teleport you directly to Lebanon, the experience brings you pretty close.

Contact Adrianna Nehme at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Adrianna Nehme, News Editor
Adrianna Nehme is a sophomore still trying to decide what to major in. Originally from a small town in Indiana, she moved to Chicago, Illinois for high school — where she was also the news editor for the school paper! She loves experiencing music live at concerts, seeking restaurants to try in the city and reading fiction novels — her all-time favorite is "The Cider House Rules" by John Irving. Check out her latest adventures on Instagram @adrianna.nehme.
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with friends, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.

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