This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, visit Loumag.com
Hunting down delicious and affordable Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine in this city isn’t hard. One could argue that behind pizza, hummus runs a close second for its consistent presence in Louisville neighborhoods. But when it comes to small, hidden places that attract mighty allegiances, Alwatan on Klondike Lane wins. Try its velvety hummus once and you may never want it again from another restaurant. Same goes for its soft, spiced falafel.
It’s easy to miss Alwatan. Located in a thicket of compact strip malls off Hikes Lane, the small, sparse dining room with roughly 10 tables opened in 2006. Owner Suleiman Talib had been running a bakery and grocery next door for two years prior. Talib came to Louisville from Palestine in 1996 and first opened a Bardstown Road smoke shop that no longer exists. His son, Adel Talib, followed in 2001.
On a busy Saturday afternoon, Adel and his wife man the register in the bakery as a customer buys nearly $100 worth of freshly bagged halal meats. A woman then plops down eight bags of warm pita, which Alwatan is known for. The Talibs bake 4,000 pieces a day and supply the bread to several restaurants in town, including Ramsi’s Cafe and Yafa Cafe. Behind the register, Muslim prayer beads hang for sale on a wall busy with phone cards and trinkets. A glass case offers homemade treats like baklava and Turkish delights. One dessert pops out. It looks exactly like a bird’s nest. And that is its name. Sweet, sticky cradles of shredded wheat hold bounties of hazelnuts, almonds and cashews. Sure, Louisville doesn’t lack for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, but few can deliver on authenticity like Alwatan.
Photos by Aaron Kingsbury