Atcha Lebanese Bakery and Café

Yes—I know it's an old Pizza Hut. Yes—I know that it seems to be perched in an unsavory area near LSU's North Nicholson gate.

But you gotta go, anyway.

I'm assuring you that this little Lebanese bakery will fill you up with great food and stock you up with authentic Mid-East grocery items at a rock-bottom price.

Abed Mubarak began by baking authentic Pita bread. To make ends meet, he cooked up dishes from his native Jerusalem and began serving them to prop up the bread business.

Now, both sides of his business are thriving. He bakes Pita bread (with its authentic pocket) for many of the Lebanese and Greek restaurants in Baton Rouge . The restaurant side has found a sizable following among LSU students. And now downtown workers are starting to drift southward and get in on the good stuff!

Let's tackle the Pita Bread first, since that's where it all began for Mubarak. These are 6-inch rounds of bread, cooked so well that they tear like fresh-baked grocery store white bread. Half-slices are included with the dinners, but lots of folks pick up a bag of the moist, whole rounds and take it home with them. (A bag of 6 goes for about a buck. There's also whole wheat versions available for a bit more.)

On Wednesday, he cooks Arabic flat bread. (Some people eat this as a dip. Some use it as a pizza crust!) There's even sweet kaak, Jerusalem-style homemade sweet dough stuffed with dates.

The restaurant dishes rival any Lebanese ethnic restaurant in Baton Rouge . Most come in a combo package, starting with the Falafel Sandwich (falafel sandwich, fries and a drink) down to the Atcha Meat Lovers Special. In between are chicken Shawarma sandwiches and salads, gyros and combinations of all. Many come with hummus and feta salad. All in all, this is tasty stuff and it's cheap too!

For you vegetarians, this is a Mecca . About a third of the menu is all-the-way vegan, serving falafel, hummus, baba ghanouge and musaka. There's even a special vegetarian platter featuring all the above, salad and a spinach fattera.

On to the good stuff.. Did you know that Atcha is a REAL bakery. Besides the Pita bread that began the run, Abed is making TONS of Lebanese sweets to put your sweet tooth into a coma. This is the stuff you've heard of—plus.. They've got baklava, cream horns, ladyfingers all laid out in a well-lit glass case. You can be a kid in the candy store all over again.

I just love the exotic names of these pastries. Maamoul, birdnests, ashta, ballorea, and basta flora.

And.. Atcha has added a grocery section, too. Shelves around the serving counter are stocked with things you'd find in any Lebanese market. By chance if you need an exotic ingredient for some dish, they've probably got it. Just by label-shopping, you can pretend you're in Beirut , or in a Jerusalem market—Abed's home town.

Not up for a full meal? He's got a snack shoppe open, too! Fried kibbi, fatteras, and manakeesh are ready to nibble.

Another tidbit. Atcha caters!! Looking for a change in catering your next meeting or get-together? Atcha Bakery can knock together chicken shawarma or gyros by the pound. What about a 9x12 tray of hummus with some fresh pita bread for dipping? You can even ordered up an entire roasted lamb to feed your office (or just half a lamb to feed the half of your office that you like!)

This place has grown on me, particularly the way all these elements are drawn in close and run together. When you walk in, there's a table of bagged bread for sale, the shelves of Mediterranean groceries and spices are just beyond the counter, and the staff is standing behind the glass counter, patiently waiting to take your order. If you walk up and tell them you need catering done, there's some quiet discussion behind the counter and with a smile, you're assured that it will be done.