“I thought it was a gift shop?!” is the most typical response when people hear me raving about the delicious food at Le Souk, a hot new eatery in town. Located in the heart of Watchung Plaza, this colorful, cozy gift shop and tea house has now added food to the experience.
Step into Le Souk and you feel as though you have departed suburban New Jersey and entered an exotic Middle Eastern living room, bursting with vibrant colors and comfortable pillows. The owner of Le Souk, Jumana Jaber, had a very strong vision for the space.
“I missed the meeting place of Le Souk (which means “market place”) in Damascus that I passed through each day on my way to work. It was where people gathered to eat, drink, go shopping and chat with friends and strangers. It is a simple way of life, being at Le Souk, where what is important is simply being together and enjoying the day,” says Jaber.
She hopes to make Le Souk, with an emphasis on the many tastes of Syria, a place where people sip tea and pastries and just “be”. A place to relax and meet new people or to come with friends as a gathering place.
Realizing how fortunate she has been to leave Syria and be able to work in United States, Jaber is very invested in giving back.
Jaber came to Montclair five years ago from Syria, two years after the war broke out. She applied for and received a scholarship to teach art and design at Montclair State University. She fell in love with the community and decided to stay. Although she has a PHD and loves teaching, Jaber is equally if not more enthralled with creating culinary masterpieces in the kitchen and presenting them artistically to customers who appreciate her unique style. Her main goal is to ensure everyone who spends time at Le Souk, even if it’s just for a cup of tea and a marzipan cake, has a meaningful experience in her beautiful space.
“I am so happy when I’m cooking my dishes and serving them to people who love and appreciate what I am making for them. It is my way of sharing my culture, but it also helps me feel connected to Syria in a positive way when there is so much sadness going on there.”
Before you go:
Le Souk is not your typical restaurant dining experience. Jaber treats you as a guest in her home, making different dishes each day while serving Syrian staples such as babaganoush, hummus, beet salad and dandelion salad. There are numerous options for vegetarians, vegans, meat eaters as well as for those with a gluten free diet.
Other specialties include:
- Muhammara, roasted red peppers with walnuts and pomegranate
- Mujaddara, lentils, rice, caramelized onions and pomegranate
- Kibbe, ground beef fried with bulgur wheat, onions and spices
- Makdous, pickled stuffed eggplant, peppers and grape leaves with rice, vegetables and pomegranate
- Chicken with Freekah — a wheat cooked like risotto with broth and spices topped with perfectly seasoned and tender chicken
Lunch at Le Souk will run you about $14-$15; three pre-fixe options for dinner are offered at $30, $40 and $50. Jaber serves lunch with walk-ins and reservations but dinner is by reservation only — and only on the weekends.
To experience something truly special and unique, Jaber also provides private dining experiences with a minimum of 12-14 people. She offers a prix fixe menu for those hosting a dinner party out of her space, baby showers, birthday parties, meetings or any other event. She provides a plethora of tasting plates, leaving the diners happy and stuffed.
Check out Le Souk. It’s not just a gift shop anymore. You’ll probably find me there!
Le Souk, 51 Watchung Plaza, Montclair, 973-462-2559