Ajeen and Juice, in bustling San Marco Square, has morphed from a juice and smoothie shop, Pulp, into a unique eatery specializing in Middle Eastern street food. It still offers a healthy dose of Pulp’s signature nutrient-dense acai bowls, freshly pressed juices and handcrafted smoothies.
Your first visit may be daunting as there are many words, ingredients and items that may be unfamiliar, but fret not as the hand-lettered menu, beautifully designed on the back wall of the restaurant by a local artist, breaks down Ajeen’s Levantine favorites. The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful too.
The eatery’s cornerstone is a warm, relatively thin homemade flatbread called ajeen, which serves as a pizza crust-like base for several items and an exterior wrap for others.
The majority of the menu is comprised of these flatbreads coupled with a savory spice mix called za’atar, to become manaeesh. These are available with a variety of toppings: extra virgin olive oil, semi-soft akkawai cheese, labneh (a soft cheese made with strained yogurt), egg, tomato, spinach, onion, cucumber and tomatoes, beef, chicken, and sausage.
The original manaeesh ($6.50), served with akkawi cheese, extra virgin olive oil and za’atar, is a great starting point. Served pizza-style and cut into fourths, it’s an easier option to share than the original with vegetables ($7), which was served as a wrap as best to contain the toppings. I did, however, enjoy its contrast of juicy tomatoes, fragrant mint and crisp cucumbers to the savory cheese and hearty spice mix. Love texture? Customize your order by adding creamy avocado for $1.50, or tangy pickled vegetables for $1.
Ajeen has two side salads.
I found the colorful salata tahini ($6) to be a perfect summery mix: crisp chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and mint, tossed in extra virgin olive oil, nutty tahini, za’atar, garlic and lemon juice, and served with ajeen.
On the weekend, go for the sakshuka.
This tasty and seemingly healthy yet hearty dish touts two large eggs poached in a mixture of tomato sauce, chili peppers, onions and a hint of cumin.
Served with a fluffy piece of ajeen, you’ll be happy to sop up those runny egg yolks!
For dessert, we tried the qatayef ($6): plump sweet potato dumplings gingerly stuffed with a mix of cheese or pecans, and topped with a not-too-sweet orange blossom syrup which imparted a nice, floral aroma.
If you’ve never had Middle Eastern street food, Ajeen lets you accomplish that mission.
Though the interior space is small, there are a limited number of seats for dining in, and two dog-friendly tables outside.
It’s also a perfect to-go spot if you can find nearby parking.