Maybe the name rings a bell, Zaatar w Zeit, could it be that the company has expanded to 81 restaurants in 7 countries?

This hot-spot for a quick and healthy lunch in the heart of Vancouver’s business district attracts more than the nooners, Zaatar w Zeit is for all of us who wish our 6” sub could use some spice.


The name originates from Lebanon and is a pretty frank translation for “Thyme with Oil.” Za’astar is a common traditional spice blend throughout the Middle East using dried spices such as thyme, sumac, oregano, sesame seeds and more. Customers can also purchase this spice blend from the café.


Founders Donald Daccache, Antoine Bou Chdid, Marwan Atallah take us back to the most exciting year of the 1990s – 1999. Not only was it the year for the Y2K music revolution, add chart toppers like Slim Shady and No Scrubs, but it was also lush party night for Donald and the team in Sodeco Beirut, Lebanon: The chain had just opened their first restaurant.



Zaatar w Zeit started off with a traditional meal, fresh manousheh, served in a a warm colourful environment fit for hanging out with friends to bringing the whole family. The brand identity changed in 2009 to a bright and urban feel, in reflection of now having locations in six leading Arab countries. If you look at the negative space between the leaf and oil drop you’ll notice the letter “Z”!


So why Vancouver? “Montreal would have made more sense to the public wouldn’t have it?” Vancouver Director Joanne Zarife said. Born in a French speaking part of West Africa (Togo), Joanne’s strong Lebanese roots brought her back to Beirut with her husband and kids, while working for Bartartine (under the same umbrella as Zaatar w Zeit). Although comfortable and happy at Bartartine she seized the moment to take the Director position in Vancouver and bring her two young children and husband to safety, after the fatal explosion at Beirut port in 2020, a bellow of a lethal amount of ammonium nitrate. Montreal, with a much larger Arab and Lebanese population might have been an obvious choice for their first location in Canada, however, the company wanted to test the waters in Canada and decided if it was going to be anywhere, it should be Vancouver – and the harsh health-conscious food critics, am I right?


If you took a journey around the world and back, you’d notice that Vancouver is pretty nutty when it comes to healthy foods. Zaatar w Zeit offers no shortage of this as their menu is built around comfort foods elevated with just the right amount of rich herbs and spices. Although the menu around the world is fairly similar, naturally, Vancouver’s had to be tweaked to include some kind of spinach. “Zaatar w Zeit was founded with the intention of it becoming something much more than burger culture Americans were accustomed too,” said Joanne, “burgers with more burgers, that would be ridiculous.”



The urban café on Granville has a rabbit fridge of fresh pre-packed salads (the only location within the company to offer this), “Vancouver loves this, picking a salad off shelves, it took me some time to understand this,” said Joanne.


Zarife had just made the move to Vancouver when the café opened to take on her new responsibilities. Although her children are loving the life here, she had a tough time adjusting the first few months, “People here say one thing and mean another, ‘Sure’ could mean so many things depending on when it’s used and how it’s said,” laughed Joanne. Sure, we get it! Vancouver is a vibe all on it’s own, it takes a bit of adjusting to.



There are four different types of wrap options on the menu: white, oat, multigrain and spinach. We tried the Green Baked Falafel, a fresh rolled variety of: mint, parsley, pickled turnip, tomatoes, lettuce, thin sliced radish and white sauce. The flavours feel earthy and healthy, a good alternative to a salad bowl. We kept half in the fridge for a day-two test and were pleasantly surprised the spinach wrap did not cease and fall apart. I enjoyed putting some spoonfuls of the Quinoa Tabbouleh salad I had leftover to give it a fresh kick.


The Chicken Escalope wrap is amazing. This isn’t the only place you’ll find a baked, but-tastes-like-fried, item on their menu. (Did you know they bake their falafels too?) The crispy chicken strips are hugged between a simple combination of lettuce, tomato long crunchy pickle, a light garlic sauce keeping it stuck all together. This didn’t make it to a day two test.



A new menu item I couldn’t keep my hands off of was their Turkey Wrap. I had it with the rest of my Fresh Yogurt milk drink (Arian we like to call it in Bulgaria, except Zaatar’s is less water mix and not too salty), which they make entirely in-house with their own bulgaricus. If you close your eyes, this soft wrap tastes like those little afternoon tea crustless sandwiches. I forced myself keep half in the fridge for the next day test. Come next day, I lightly warmed the outside for about one minute on each side, low-medium setting hot-plate. Day two the wrap tasted like a “fresh” 6-inch sub, take this one as you will. This wrap is a new favorite, 10/10 recommend to order (enjoyed on the same day).


I ended with a selection of deserts I spooned with compostable cutlery. A contest-winning naked layered red velvet cake, super cute and bright red colours; not to mention a rich soft cheesecake topped with fresh in-house blueberry compote.



Looks like Vancouver has passed the test though, as we will expect to see a new location in West Vancouver (currently already in construction) that will offer just as much love as on Granville Street. The possibility of table-side service and restaurant feel, just like the rest of the company’s locations in the Middle East, is in discussions for a bigger location.


With so many items they make in-house, how does it get to what looks like a small kitchen at the end of the café? The magic happens on the second floor, with a full industrial sized kitchen. Wraps and the like are prepared downstairs, with all the baking and mixing upstairs.


How does a global company keep their flavours consistent? This is something we can’t wait to share with you in our interview with the company’s Head Chef soon.



Catering is available. The café is open 9am to 9pm every day (with a lat 10am start on Sunday).

531 Granville Street, Vancouver, B.C


Keep your eyes peeled for their new location opening in West Vancouver soon.



Nina @Fueler

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