Bedouin Tent’s Pitas Are Still a Draw in a Changing Neighborhood

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But gentrification does bring its ups and downs

(Hillary Flynn / The Brooklyn Ink)

(Photo by Hillary Flynn / The Brooklyn Ink)

Metal pipes stab through the backyard garden of the Bedouin Tent Restaurant, a Middle Eastern eatery in Downtown Brooklyn that specializes in pita sandwiches. A makeshift wooden platform hangs over part of the restaurant’s garden, obscuring it from the sun. Above the platform are ladders, pipes, and other remains of the construction done on the building next door to the restaurant during the day.

“It used to be nicer,” said Ali Amghaz, a cashier at Bedouin Tent Restaurant, while staring at the garden.

He was worried the noise and all the leftover pipes and wooden platforms from the construction penetrating the garden would deter customers from eating at the venue.

Bedouin Tent Restaurant is one of a handful of Middle Eastern restaurants in the Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn area. It was opened by an Iraqi family named Jordanian back in the 1980s—the same family that owns Moustache Pitza and eateries like Olive Café in Park Slope. Bedouin Tent Restaurant is on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bond Street.

Despite all the changes to Downtown Brooklyn in the more-than-three decades since the restaurant’s formation, Amghaz said that little has changed. The restaurant has stayed true to its roots by specializing in serving simple fresh pita sandwiches. Amghaz attributed their loyal customer base to the pita oven in the center of the restaurant.

“It’s the pita; it’s so fresh,” Amghaz said. “All the sandwiches have fresh pita. It’s the secret thing for the restaurant.”

The cooks make the dough from scratch, working it with their hands before they form circles the perfect length and width to throw in the clay oven. When the hot, crisp pita is pulled out, the smell of freshly baked bread fills the air. Chickpeas, tomatoes, and other vegetables line the counter. There’s fresh baklava on display that young children, walking into the restaurant trailing their parents, grab at. Behind the counter there are cut up piece of vegetables so fresh you can practically taste the moisture when you bite in. Everything smells of the dough yeast, counters covered in flour and the cooks kneed and slap the dough onto the counter.

Amghaz, who is originally from Morocco, said when he first started working at Bedouin Tent Restaurant he was surprised that customers who lived closer to a different Middle Eastern restaurant would order food from this one.

“‘We order here instead of the restaurant around the corner because you are the best’, they would tell me,” he said.

Arabic music greets customers when they walk in. There are colorful tapestries hanging on the wall composed of red, green, and purple thread. Some have pictures of gods with bird and jackal heads, some of women with snakes wrapped around them.

But beyond the warm indoors, mangled pools and wires pierce through the backyard. The new gentrification forces are starting to affect the restaurant for the first time.

Five townhouses are being built next door priced around $4.9 million, according to Streeteasy.com. The project was supposed to be completed by June, but the construction is still ongoing, according to a sign by the site.

The townhouses are designed by the prestigious Ben Hansen Architect firm, which specializes in residential buildings. They are called “State + Bond” townhouses, where even the bathrooms are described as “the epitome of luxury” and come complete with a terrace and walk-in shower, according to the townhouses’ website. The bedrooms have marble natural gas fireplaces and walk-in closets. Residents can walk out of their living room into their town private garden.

Unfortunately for Bedouin Tent next door, the construction of one garden is very disruptive to another. Amghaz said, looking out on the restaurant’s own patio, “It’s not nice anymore with the construction.”

(Hillary Flynn / The Brooklyn Ink)

(Photo by Hillary Flynn / The Brooklyn Ink)

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