Dining à la Lebanese at the newest Café Nuba

Mouth-watering mezze at Main Street's Café Nuba.

Credit: Kris Krüg

Mouth-watering mezze at Main Street’s Café Nuba

Ask any self-described hummus addict (yes, that’s me!)—high quality Middle Eastern fare is hard to come by in Vancouver.

Of course there’s plenty of takeout shawarma options in town, but so much of enjoying Middle Eastern cuisine is the chance to share it with friends, tapas style. The newest location in the growing Nuba Restaurant Group empire, Café Nuba on Main Street is easily one of the city’s best for doing just that: dining à la Lebanese.

Café Nuba


146 E 3rd Ave, Vancouver

Open Monday–Saturday
11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Don’t let the sparse, mint-green exterior of the new Nuba café fool you. Like the restaurant’s two other locations (one on Seymour, the other on West Hastings), the café’s understated exterior blends in with the local community.

Inside, the atmosphere and retro-chic décor—which the website reasonably describes as “inspired by Third World roadside cafes of the 1970s”—echo Main Street’s eclecticism. Sunlight streams in through large windows looking out onto E. 3rd Avenue, making the small room feel much larger than it is.

With only 24 seats, the restaurant was abuzz on the Monday night I stopped by with a friend for an after-work bite. And just in time: by the time we’d ordered, there were potential diners lined up, waiting to be seated and to order takeaway.

Hummus, labneh, tabouleh and baba ghanooj are just a few of the Lebanese specialties perfect for sharing.

Café Nuba’s a la Lebanese mezze menu

There’s no shortage of hot and cold mezze—appetizer-sized sharing plates—on Nuba’s menu, and our waitress recommended either ordering three to four dishes for two people or one of their “feast” sampler plates, with both smaller ($14) and larger ($28-45) options.

At affordable prices ranging from $6 to $8 we decided to splurge on four individual mezze plates: the mjadra, tabouleh, Najib’s Special and grilled laffa and labneh. I was hoping to have a glass of wine with my meal but unfortunately the café isn’t yet licensed, so try the fresh juices ($4–$5.50) instead.

Exotic fresh juices on the menu include beet, lime and ginger.

Our dinner was served quickly with a side of pita, and all four dishes were light and colourful. The mjadra—a simple dish of green lentils—was surprisingly creamy, topped with tahini and caramelized onions. The Najib’s Special, which consists of roasted cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt, is also not to be missed.

The tabouleh, a Middle Eastern salad with bulgur, tomato and parsley, was a perfect complement; as was the labneh, a yogurt dip topped with olive oil and za’atar (a cousin of thyme) with a side of flatbread called “laffa.”

If I’d had more room I would have thrown in an organic meat dish in there—the chicken tawook, which comes in both mezze ($7.50) and entrée ($12) sizes, and the lamb hushwie ($8.25), served with hummus, both looked delicious!

There are plenty of vegetarian options, like falafel, on offer at Nuba.

And, of course, any Middle Eastern dining experience is best finished with Turkish-style coffee ($3.25) and traditional rosewater-infused short bread cookies, called mahmoul ($2.75) and baklava pastries ($3).

In each of its locations, Nuba has developed a reputation for serving up old Middle Eastern favourites for new diners with flair—and based on the meal I enjoyed at the new Main Street spot, it appears well on its way to furthering Nuba’s good name.


Alex Samur

Alex Samur is a Vancouver-based writer, managing editor of rabble.ca and Commercial Drive nomad who appreciates the fine arts of lace knitting, small-space gardening and a well-made espresso. Follow her on Twitter @asamur.