On a street where locals queue up for hours for Country Cat’s tasty Southern brunch, Ya Hala's chef Mirna Attar is giving diners a reason to occassionally ditch the line on weekend mornings. The chef’s well-loved Lebanese restaurant (which sits just across the street from "the Cat" on the Montavilla neighborhood’s main drag) is a local lunch and dinner fixture—as well as a part of a citywide Lebanese family restaurant and market dynasty. On March 21, Attar debuted brunch service. Diverting from its usual old-school Mid-East playbook, the kitchen is spice routing American greasy spoon standards and offering fizzy, herbacious gin drinks (like the The Fresh Prince of Beirut) alongside long-handled pots of fragrant Turkish coffee and more traditional Lebanese breakfast fare like hummus, veggies, cheese, eggs, and soujouk sausages.
My mother is very, very talented,” laughs Ya Hala manager Pascal Attar, who is also Mirna’s son. “Traditional breakfasts are very important but she wanted to take the menu to the next level.” Indeed. After one meal from the 15-plus item menu, we’ve already got three reasons to head back to Ya Hala’s exciting (and for now, line-less) brunch.
1. LEBANESE COUNTRY BREAKFAST Yes, you can nab the brunch trifecta of eggs, bacon, and potatoes at any diner across the city. But Ya Hala’s trades pig for salty little twists of gamey-good house-smoked lamb bacon and a pair of archetypal sunny side eggs. A soft hash of potatoes, carrots, and onion perked up with fresh mint completes the trio. The kitchen even adds a few soft, fiery housemade Lebanese soujouk sausages to the party. Chop it all up into a slick, crunchy, salty, spicy heap of satisfaction.
2. CHOCOLATE HALVA CROISSANT A handful of house-baked goods, from pecan brioche to the delightful-to-say sfoof cake, stained yellow with turmeric, are on the roster, but the standout so far is a lumpy house croissant stuffed with chocolate-covered sesame halva (side note: Mediterranean brunch maker Levant also recently debuted a house halva croissant). Ya Hala’s dense treat basically tastes like a Butterfinger Hot Pocket. Which is, you know, awesome.
3. KAFTA BURGER “You have got to get the burger,” whispers the server, gesturing to a neighboring table where a six-inch high, knife-impaled behemoth sits like a dare. Ya Hala repurposes the juicy, parsley and onion-packed beef patties they usually serve as kebabs as the centerpiece of a hefty burger, layered with arugula, a silky slab of roasted and flash-fried eggplant, an ungainly roasted half-tomato, all dressed with a bright tahini-Dijon sauce on house brioche bun. Gluttons can add on that lamb bacon and a fried egg, too. Either way, it’s crazy-messy good. Even better, the respectable fries are served with a side dish of pungent, irresistibly creamy toum— Lebanese sour cream-like labneh infused with what tastes like 16 heads of garlic. It tastes good on anything. Bonus: you can get it by the tub next door at Ya Hala’s market.
8005 SE Stark St.
Brunch: Sat and Sun, 9am – 2pm