Makan, meaning place in Arabic, appears to be the trendy place for IE Students to grab a quick bite with friends in between classes. There is always a long line of students giggling and watching the bread rise as it cooks slowly on the Saj. But why is it the new “it” place and what is its story?
The simplicity of the name reflects the minimalist aesthetic that takes on traditional Lebanese street foods and elevates them to a modern concept. Makan brings dignity to Lebanese street food by adapting itself to the international eye, while maintaining its core elements of Lebanese Culture. The owners of Makan state, “First of all, Makan is part of our house. Makan is a piece of Lebanon; It represents our food, culture, and way of life. Makan is our childhood… Our kitchen… It’s how my mom and sister cook! Makan represents our family. It is our story. And we want to share it with you”. The main mission of Makan is to share their customs with the world and honor them.
So what exactly is this captivating street food? Makan has a variety of great options that can complement many dietary restrictions. Manoushe is a typical Lebanese wrap that is associated with and the staple item of their restaurant. The Manoushe is made fresh in-store every day and is vegan, sugar-free, and made with whole wheat flour. When you walk in. you can see someone cooking the thin dough on a dome-shaped grill, called the Saj, which is easily distinguishable and intriguing. The Saj is an aspect of traditional gastronomy that is introduced by Makan to the international community. The ingredients that go inside that wrap are traditional Mediterranean ingredients such as hummus, falafels, olives, olive oil, goat cheese, and tomatoes. The warmth and crispness of the bread meet and create a harmonious balance with the freshness of the Mediterranean ingredients. Makan allows you to customize the ingredients in the wraps and the owners are great at recommending different combinations. The restaurant also offers different bowls with a mix of refreshing ingredients.
Not only is the food great, but the concept of the restaurant is also nothing less than the embodiment of Lebanese hospitality. The first restaurant opened in Salamanca, near the IE Campus on Maria de Molina. It was a humble size but was always full of people laughing and enjoying their meals. I had the privilege of visiting the original Makan and my first impression was nothing short of extraordinary. The two cheerful owners took note of every new customer and personalized the experience by giving amazing recommendations and sharing their stories. We quickly learned from the conversation that are IE alumni and that they were also owners of a bar in Malasaña called Phoenix. After my friends and I sat down to eat it for the first time, it was clear that the owners were peeking behind the counter to see our expressions. Once the Lebanese flavors and the experiences sold with them graced our taste buds and satisfied our hungry stomachs, our expressions embodied the warmth and cheerfulness of the owners. It was then that the owner’s faces behind the country lit up with excitement. It is clear that Makan is something they are truly passionate and proud of, and want to share it with every person that is curious enough to try it.
To be honest, when I found out Makan was opening in the Caleido Center with a much larger space, I was worried that the intimacy would be affected. Even with the late start in the opening of the new restaurant as they had issues with the electricity, Manu, and Alex, the owners continued on cheerfully and with great optimism inviting my friends and me to the opening. Finally, I went to the opening of the Makan near IE Tower and remembered a long line of intrigued and hungry IE students reaching far outside the restaurant. The line went by quickly and as soon as Alex and Manu saw us their energetic voices greeted us with excitement. Although the restaurant was filled with people it was visible that the owners were taking their time to give great recommendations and ensure that all their customers were content and felt the hospitality of the Lebanese.
Makan is the definition of hospitality in Lebanon. The food reflects the care and pride of its owners, and every meal allows you to transport the mind to the sensation of sharing a meal with family.