Episode 21 – Maha’s

Maha’s is an Egyptian Brunch spot located at 226 Greenwood Ave. (on the west side of Greenwood just north of Gerrard) in Leslieville.  It opened up in October 2014, and has quickly become a loved local hotspot for brunch, with hour-long waits on weekends!  It’s run by Maha Barsoom and her daughter Monika and son Mark.  A family affair!

The Decor

I really like the decor.  It’s small (seats probably 20 or so inside and perhaps another 10 out on the patio), cozy and clean!  The walls are adorned with pretty paintings all done by Maha’s sister Mariam (and available for sale!).  Inside you’ll likely be greeted by a smiling barista and son of Maha, Mark Wahba.   The kitchen is directly behind the counter and it’s neat to be able to take a peek inside.  In there you’ll see Maha and her daughter Monika Wahba running the ship!  The place is a nice brunch spot and the decor is warm and the seating is comfortable, especially for such a small spot.

 

The Food

At your table you will be served water in a nice glass vase-like pitcher.  It seems your vase will either be plain water, mint water or lemon-mint water.  I went four times and on Monday and Tuesday it was regular water, and on Thursday it was lemon-mint and Friday was mint water.  Not sure if there’s a pattern to it, but I personally enjoyed the lemon-mint water pictured below!

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Maha’s Award-Winning Lentil Soup ($9 for a full bowl with mini pita on the side or $6 for a side soup) — (vegan) onion, carrot, tomato, potato, lentils, garlic, cumin, cardamom pods and more.

This soup was like heaven in a bowl.  Just incredible.  The presentation is top notch, with the parsley, white vinegar soaked onions, black pepper and drizzle of oil on top.  The soup is really smooth, very flavourful and not salty like some soups can be.  The vinegar soaked onion is a nice touch… I really love onions.  I got it 4 times this week because I was so in love with it.  I have to admit that on Friday the soup wasn’t up to snuff with the other 3 days, as there were grains of garlic in it that seemed to be more finely blended into the soup on the other days.  It was still great but not quite as good as the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday version!  This is an incredible soup. 9.5/10
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Cairo Classic ($12) — foole (fava beans) mixed with tomatoes and onions, a sliced boiled egg, falafel, tomato feta, charred balady bread and house greens.

The falafel is amazing.  It’s got some tanginess to it.  The foole is tasty with hints of vinegar, and a great flavour mix of onions, tomatoes and beans.  The tomato feta is tasty as well… creamy but not overwhelming.  The balady bread is like naan but slightly chewier.  The house greens are fantastic… I love the vinegar soaked onions, tomatoes and cucumber.  The greens are simple yet excellent.  8/10

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Sunny Eggs and Foole ($11) — two sunny-side up eggs over foole with charred balady bread and house greens.

This one is neat!  Anytime I get to crack yolks over my food, I’m happy.  I’m looking at you Corned Beef Hash.  The eggs were done perfectly and the foole complements the eggs well.  8/10

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Basturma Scramble ($11) — thinly sliced cured beef with fenugreek, garlic, Egyptian spices, sautéed in butter and mixed with a three egg scramble.  Served with charred balady bread and house greens.

This looks like an Egyptian take on a standard brunch you’d see in Toronto.  The scrambled eggs are done well, have a nice texture and the parsley adds a nice flavour.  The cured beef is really nice, and kind of replaces the bacon that you might normally see in a North American brunch. 8/10

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Maha’s Mind Blowing Chicken Sandwich ($7) — Maha’s sacred marinate, tossed with parsley, onions and tomatoes, served on a toasted egg bun with Tomeya (garlic sauce), homemade mayo and tehina.

Again, I cannot stress enough how great the presentation is at Maha’s.  They clearly care about us food Instagrammers, haha!  I honestly do consider presentation in my food ratings… obviously taste comes first, but when the presentation is there it usually means a LOT of care was put into the creation of the food.  The chicken was nicely seasoned.  I love the combination of the onions, tomatoes, parsley and tehina.  The toasted egg bun had a light sweetness to it and held the sandwich together well.  8/10

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Assortment of Cookies (from $1 – $2.50)

I really liked these.  The date roll cookie thing (I have no idea the official name) was my favourite.  8.5/10

The almond cookie is apparently Greek (thanks Producer George Tsilfidis!) and is called Amygdalota, and I liked it too!  It had a chewy centre.  8/10

I think the powdered one is a Kourabiedes, a walnut sugar cookie, and it was also good.  7.5/10

The round thing with cumin or caraway seeds inside was interesting!  A definite acquired taste and something I enjoyed but not as much as the others. 7/10

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On to the drinks!

Egyptian Black Tea w/ Mint (I think $2.50 for single and $4-5 for large?)

A smooth yet strong black tea with a nice light mint flavour.  I love the little glass it’s served in. 8.5/10

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Honey-Cardamom Latte ($4.25 for small, $4.95 for large)

A latte that is not too sweet, with a nice flavour!  The cardamom is relatively subtle, as is the honey… but it’s there and it’s the perfect sweetness.  I believe this is a specialty drink of Maha’s that you won’t find elsewhere. 9/10

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Turkish Coffee ($3)

This coffee is not for the faint of heart!  I’ve had it a few times before, in some cases in a Greek restaurant where it is known as “Greek Coffee” (there’s a reason it’s been renamed but it’s essentially the same thing… I read an interesting article about it here).  It’s basically coffee with the grounds at the bottom.  It’s generally very strong.  It’s also usually served with sugar, but I’m a black coffee man and I took it black.  I really liked it!  Of the few places where I’ve tried it before, I must say this was the best.  I especially liked that Mark Wahba presented it to the table and served it to me fresh AT the table, pouring it from the copper pot.  8/10

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Hot Lemon Raw Ginger ($3)

It’s a simple drink that looks to be made of hot water, lemon and ginger!  It’s got a fairly subtle ginger flavour with a more pronounced lemon flavour.  It’s unsweetened which is nice.  7.5/10

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So, overall I really enjoyed Maha’s.  I think what’s amazing is how much the family takes care of the place.  On all 4 visits I made, all three owners (Maha, Mark and Monika) were there.  The other employees were always very kind to me too, and even recognized me on future visits.  I noticed that there are a lot of locals that visit and Egyptian people as well.  I overheard one Egyptian customer mention how great the food was and how great it was to be able to eat at a place like that in Toronto.  It’s a good point, as I can’t think of too many Egyptian restaurants in the city.  I managed to eat in at Maha’s without any lineups each day, but it was still always near or at capacity, which is great for business!  I have heard weekend lineups can get hefty, at a 45-60 minute wait, but I believe it’s worth it!  Maha’s is a charming spot, and the food will fill you up!  I highly recommend it.

Their hours are 8am-7pm Mondays and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 8am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday.  They are CLOSED on Wednesdays.

Next week: I check out Sweet Jesus and look forward to indulging in their crazy soft serve concoctions.

-Tang

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