Casual weeknight dinners are rarely memorable. They’re often afterthoughts, when you feel like a tequila-logged sponge that needs to be wrung out, or you’re busy and want the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s three-course dinner chewing gum (without the side effect of turning into a blueberry). But those quick, sometimes-healthy dinners don’t need to be forgettable. Just get food at Samesa.
Samesa is a counter-service Middle Eastern spot in a part of Williamsburg that hasn’t (yet) been overrun by pet-friendly coworking spaces and apartment buildings with rooftop fire pits, and as a result, it’s one of the few fast-casual options east of the BQE. It’s a tiny space, but they make the most of it, with colorful shelves of random grocery items that make you feel like you could be in Venice Beach. Instead of having smoke blown in your face by someone who has been emulating Spicoli since ’85, though, you’ll be hit by smells of roasting chicken and braising lamb from the open kitchen behind the counter.
The whole menu is available every day for lunch and dinner, and whether you order the chicken shawarma, the za’atar roasted salmon, or one of the vegetarian options, you’ll get a lot of very enjoyable food for about $15. All of the mains are available as pitas or platters, and we recommend going with a platter, which comes with rice, a couple different spreads, and a mound of pickled vegetables. There’s nothing on the menu you should avoid, but you should begin your relationship with Samesa with the chicken shawarma - a big pile of tender chicken pieces that are slightly charred and covered in bright, acidic and rich, creamy sauces.
The food is filling and the portions are large, but Samesa is also healthy enough to make you feel less like one of those waste containers marked with a skull and crossbones after last weekend. The platters are all packed with pickled cauliflower and carrots and other things that grow in the dirt, and the vegetarian options are just as enjoyable as the meat-focused ones. If you want to keep things completely non-animal, start with one of the dips - like the avocado hummus or the spicy matbucha - and then get the platter with balls of gooey mashed zucchini inside crunchy, spice-heavy outer shells.
While Samesa works for takeout or delivery when your body is telling you that it needs vitamins and drawn blinds, the food actually tastes best when it’s served to-stay, still steaming from the kitchen a few feet away. But whether you eat here or in your apartment as you daydream about your couch having built-in airplane trays, this is a casual, mostly-healthy weeknight meal that you’ll remember.
If you’re nervous about having your in-laws over to your apartment for a dinner party, you’ll go a long way towards impressing them by putting a few of these dips out to snack on. They’re all enjoyable, but the avocado hummus is our favorite. Just get some chips or crackers to serve on the side, since the pita here tends to be disappointingly dry and bland.
The wings are smoked, so they're not breaded, but the juicy meat and combination of spices in the rub have a ton of flavor.
Get this on your first trip here, and your long-term relationship with this place will be underway. Like all the platters, it comes with pickled vegetables, rice, and dips (but the star is still the juicy, tender chicken shawarma).
This may sound like one of the less interesting menu options, but it’s not your standard plate of fried zucchini sticks. The zucchini is turned into a gooey mash, then fried into balls that look like falafel. The crunchy crust is packed with different spices, and the inside tastes better than zucchini is ever supposed to taste.
This za’atar-covered salmon is perfectly cooked, but our favorite part about the whole plate might actually be the spicy pepper dip. Mix it around with the mound of yellow rice, and that’s a dish we’d happily order on its own.
This is the only entree here you don’t need to try. Beyond the vegetables and rice, this is basically just a couple of beet pickled eggs, and while those are pretty good, the whole thing becomes too pickley.
The stringy pieces of pulled lamb here are intensely rich, with juices that turn the normal brown rice into very special brown rice. Also, in case you’re particularly hungry, this is the most filling option on the menu.