I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a hummus snob. After several trips to Israel over the past 20 years, I know what exceptional hummus is supposed to taste like (let me tell you, it's not Sabra). My expert status was confirmed when BuzzFeed used one of my photos for the #1 location on their list of the 10 best places hummus places in Israel. #JustSayin
Given my love of hummus, you can imagine my excitement upon learning a restaurant devoted to the creamy chickpea spread was opening just four blocks from my office.
It's called Tahaza Hummus Kitchen and it is located just behind the Cambridgeside Galleria and across the street from the HubSpot office on First Street.
Before I even set foot inside the space, I knew I was going to love it. I could tell right away the owner (or designer) was very thoughtful. Check out the letter "T" carved into each of the door handles (T for Tahaza).
Inside, Tahaza has their mission printed nice and big on the wall for all to see, "Be Bold. Embrace Flavor. Live Better."
After you've stepped inside the doors, you can turn to your right to get in line to order.
I noticed one of the plaques hanging above the counter lists all of Tahaza's local partners, putting a star on the map for each of their locations. The first time I ever noticed a restaurant do a map like this was at Stone Hearth in Allston. I love the public commitment to sourcing (and celebrating) local.
Before placing our order, we were lucky to snag a few minutes with Tahaza's owner, Emily DeBonis.
Emily fell in love with hummus while she was living in London. She'd found several places serving delicious Lebanese food, and hummus was always a centerpiece. She told me, "Before living in London, I had only had hummus as a dip or an appetizer, never as the focal point of a dish. Hummus is actually quite filling and can be a really bold, flavorful dish."
When I asked why she decided to open a hummus kitchen, Emily explained, "People are constantly looking for healthy, fast casual options. I knew we could open a great restaurant with hummus as the star."
Of course I was curious how she chose this area of Cambridge. Emily shared, "We looked all over, at several places, but I really fell in love with this neighborhood. There are so many offices here and nothing to eat . . . unless you want to eat at the mall food court."
Before digging in, I had to know, did Emily have any experience making hummus? "No, I was actually an elementary school teacher. I taught for several years. When I had my two children I took a bit of time off, but when I decided to go back to work I knew I had to make this hummus dream a reality."
Emily doesn't just talk the talk, she walks the walk. She jumped right behind the counter to help make my lunch. Pictured below, Emily is layering the original hummus into my hummus bowl (you could also select red pepper or fall beet hummus).
Once you've selected your hummus flavor, the Tahaza team will top it with your choice of proteins, veggies and sauces.
Check out this incredible list of choices!
After much deliberation, I went with the original hummus topped with a squirt of olive oil, falafel, mushrooms, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and a swirl of the lemon-mint vinaigrette.
The hummus was so creamy! I couldn't believe it.
I loved the medley of mushrooms (one of the protein options). They were so meaty and flavorful. A really great (and filling) choice for a vegetarian. Also, the feta cheese was incredibly fresh.
Sadly, the falafel was too dense and grainy. I also regretted adding the vinaigrette because it made the bottom of my hummus bowl super liquid-y. Live and learn!
My coworker decided on the fall beet hummus (a gorgeous color!) piled high with lamb, chicken, feta cheese, carrots, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and the Sriracha tahini dressing.
After a few bites I was desperate to hear what she thought of her two protein choices - the lamb and the chicken. She described, "I liked the lamb best. It had really excellent seasoning. The chicken is shredded and super tender. It also has a lot of flavor."
I asked how she liked the Sriracha tahini (a dressing I was also eyeing). She commented, "I was worried it would be too much on top of all the ingredients and confuse the flavor, but it was a great addition. It had nice heat and just a little kick to it."
Now, it is well documented here on Pop.Bop.Shop. that I hate beets. However, the color of this hummus was so beautiful that I had to try it. I have to say, there was just a hint of beet flavor, which was perfect for someone like me, who normally finds their earthy taste too strong.
Along side our hummus bowls we had pita bread (which we ate so quickly I forgot to snap it) and a bag of pita chips.
I would highly recommend the pita bread (over the chips). It was yummy on its own, but an even better vehicle for soaking up the hummus. The chips were very light, but a bit tasteless.
To accompany our hummus feast, we sampled some of Tahaza's fountain drinks, all supplied by Maine Root, a company that only uses fair trade sugar.
My coworker went with the ice tea and I opted for the lemonade. They were both sweet and refreshing.
Here's an aerial shot of our spread before we demolished it.
As we were digging into our hummus bowls, my coworker remarked, "This really feels like a big enough portion to eat now and save half for dinner or for lunch tomorrow."
Though Tahaza has only been open for seven weeks, the word is out. By the time we were ready to leave at 12:15pm, a huge line had formed. It snaked through the restaurant, out the door and down the sidewalk.
I was very pleased with my first Tahaza experience. The hummus itself was excellent and it's a huge bonus that it's made in-house by Emily and her team. I am also excited to return and not only whip up different flavor combos, but try the hummus salad bowl and the hummus grain bowl.
Visit Tahaza Hummus Kitchen at One Canal Park, Cambridge, MA 02141.
*Though my meal at Tahaza Hummus Kitchen was complimentary, all opinions are 100 percent my own.