.Downtown San Jose Food Hall Serves Manakish

A new downtown food hall hosts a mix of eateries

San Jose’s new Downtown Food Hall combines over a dozen restaurants under one roof. They had their grand opening on Jan. 24 at 82 E Santa Clara Street. 

It’s a cashier-less food court with several screens for patrons to place their orders for any of the hall’s establishments. Although the business is centered around fulfilling pick-up or delivery orders, there’s a simple food court-style collection of tables for those looking to dine in. Overall, it doesn’t seem like an enticing place to sit down for dinner. The food, however, is worthy of the appetite’s consideration.

The first place I tried was Manakish Oven & Grill. They specialize in man’oushe—singular for manakish—a Levantine flatbread that is often topped with meat, vegetables and dairy. They feature over 15 unique variations of manakish. 

Other options include wraps, fries loaded with chicken or tri tip shawarma paired with a nutty tahini sauce or pungent garlic sauce, as well as pita bread served with Lebanese dips. Their website mentions they pride themselves in using quality ingredients and even boast of a no-freezer policy. Their mission is to encourage people to try Middle Eastern food other than the familiar hummus. 

Their flagship location in Walnut Creek garnered the attention of The San Francisco Chronicle. Food critic Cesar Hernandez said Manakish is “focused and casual but does not obscure flavor in favor of recognizability among a mainstream American audience.” 

Although the menu offers variations that may feel more familiar to an American audience—like their manakish with traditional pepperoni, mozzarella, bell pepper and onion pizza toppings—they also add their own elements to each dish. In the pizza-style manakish, the usual marinara sauce is swapped for shakshuka, a spiced tomato sauce typically served with poached eggs.  

I was concerned about whether this food court would be capable of properly replicating a dish that requires so much precision. Doughs are known for being finicky and requiring specific temperatures and proper handling to ensure they’re stretched to the right size and keep their air pockets. That said, the dough was amazing. 

The flatbread is pillowy with a light golden crust underneath. Most of the manakish don’t come sliced, but the experience of tearing off a piece of dough for each bite helps to appreciate how tender it is.

During my visit I opted for a more traditional combination, it came doused with a layer of their homemade za’atar; a mixture of cucumber, tomato and swirls of the strained yogurt, labneh. It also had a couple briny pops of kalamata olives that have a meaty texture. Their za’atar spice blend provides bursts of savoriness and earthness that’s smoothed out by the tangy labneh. The cucumber and tomato mixture is spiked with lemon juice to provide a brightness that lightens the dish both on the palate and with a burst of color. This feels like a dish you would eat on a summer picnic.

The varied menu at Manakish allows the diner to experience something new on every visit. I think it’s great that the San Jose food hall is letting successful eateries branch out into new areas without having to commit to the investment of maintaining a physical location. 


San Jose’s Downtown Food Hall

82 E Santa Clara St, San Jose

sjdowntownfoodhall.com

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