clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Fatteh, a popular Syrian breakfast of yogurt and hummus topped with whole chickpeas, pita chips, slivered almonds, and parsley, along with a drizzle of hot oil.
Fatteh is a popular Syrian breakfast of yogurt and hummus with toppings.

Filed under:

This Syrian Street Food Pop-Up Brings All the Angelenos to the Yard, Literally

Nawal serves Syrian comfort foods through a Circassian lens in Solano Canyon

Nawal, one of Los Angeles’s most thrilling pop-ups, serves Syrian cooking through a Circassian lens. The weekend-only restaurant-slash-backyard-party is run by brothers Armbay and Dotee Zakaria, along with their cousin Danny Zakaria, and operates from a home just northeast of Dodger Stadium in Solano Canyon. While Dotee lives in the house with his wife and daughter full-time, come Saturday and Sunday afternoons he and his family welcome curious strangers to sample Syrian comfort foods in their backyard.

A sign welcomes passersby to “Historic Solano Canyon” at the crest of the hill where Nawal is located. The squat, peach residence that houses the pop-up was originally built in 1910 by a family that was later evicted when the city of Los Angeles exercised eminent domain to make room for 10,000 public housing units. The house was moved to Solano Canyon after surviving demolition and stands as one of a few remnants from the era. When the public housing plan fell out of public favor in the 1950s, the razed land tract that once made up the communities of La Loma, Bishop, and Palo Verde was sold to Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley to build the team’s new West Coast stadium. “Some of my neighbors still call this [area] La Loma,” Dotee says.

The pop-up’s five-item menu is hand-written and posted next to a makeshift service window that the brothers adapted from the wooden fence at the back of the house. Since opening for business, Danny, Armbay, and Dotee have been most excited to introduce diners to fatteh, a popular Syrian breakfast that the family refers to as “tisiyeh.” The yogurt and hummus mixture topped with whole chickpeas, pita chips, slivered almonds, and parsley, along with a drizzle of hot oil, is eaten with a spoon even though it looks like a dip. Diners can combine the fatteh’s ingredients and nibble on the pickles and peppers for extra pop.

A man behind a fence taking a customer’s order at the Narwal pop-up.
Danny Zakaria taking a customer’s order.

Nawal, which translates to “gift” in Arabic, is the name of Armbay and Dotee’s mother, who is the primary source of the pop-up’s recipes. Early feedback from neighbors and customers has been largely positive, even their mother gave her approval — a good sign for the brothers who refuse to eat Syrian food anywhere but at her house. The brothers grew up in Anaheim, around the corner from the newly anointed Little Arabia District on Brookhurst where they still own and operate a two decades-old custom millwork business. Their father left Syria in 1970 and moved to New Jersey, where their mother joined him in 1972; the family settled in California in 1978. While their parents arrived to the U.S. from Syria, they consider themselves descendants of the Circassian people originally from the North Caucasus and displaced by genocide in the 1800s to Anatolia, parts of modern day Russia, throughout the Levant, and beyond.

As Nawal’s momentum grows, the trio plans to explore more of the culinary spectrum that comprises their nuanced identities. Their goal is to offer dishes that represent the complexity of their heritage to better serve the 300 or so Circassian families in Los Angeles and Orange counties. A recent Instagram post on Nawal’s account hinted that haliva, a fried potato or Circassian cheese turnover, may soon appear on the weekend lineup. It solicited comments from local Circassians willing to form caravans and purchase the rare delicacy in bulk as soon as it was available.

The menu recently expanded to include a soujouk wrap — a neater-to-eat adaptation of a popular Syrian sandwich. It consists of rectangular cuts of spiced beef sausage with fried nabulsi cheese, tomatoes, pickles, and parsley bundled in a Turkish flatbread. In August, the trio also introduced a makdous sandwich — oil-fermented eggplant stuffed with crushed walnuts and red bell pepper tucked into a baguette. All of the breads served at Nawal are sourced from bakeries in Anaheim as the quality is unmatched.

A sliver of baked flatbread smeared with thick yogurt, blanketed with za’atar and dried mint, and topped with a choice of soujouk or basturma at Narwal.
Labneh crisp.
Syrian sandwich with spiced beef sausage with fried nabulsi cheese, tomatoes, pickles, and parsley bundled in a Turkish flatbread at Narwal.
Soujouk wrap.
A trio of dishes from Narwal pop-up.
A trio of dishes from the Narwal pop-up.

There are three options for vegan ful, each made from different variations of whole or blended fava beans, lemon juice, tahini, herbs, garlic, olive oil, and more. The pop-up’s latest hit is the labneh crisp, a sliver of baked flatbread smeared with thick yogurt, blanketed with za’atar and dried mint, and topped with a choice of soujouk or basturma. The crisp can be made vegetarian without the addition of meat.

While the brothers and their cousin have been dreaming about a tasting menu in recent weeks — their eyes light up as they describe an intimate, omakase-like experience — it will be a while until the trio get their sea legs and make the vision a reality. However, Nawal is considering expanding its hours of operation to include Friday evenings once the Dodgers season ends. For now, all of Los Angeles is invited to the Zakaria’s backyard in Solano Canyon for a taste of the family’s ever-evolving food traditions.

Nawal is open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. or until sellout. Check Instagram for the latest menu and hours of operations.

Armbay, Dotee, and Danny Zakaria of Narwal.
Left to right: Dotee, Danny, and Armbay Zakaria run the Narwal pop-up together.
Wonho Frank Lee
The view from inside the backyard in Solano Canyon.
The succinct menu and daily special posted on the fence.
The menu posted on the fence.
A person serving customers from behind the fence at Narwal pop-up.
Danny Zakaria serving customers from behind the fence.
The restaurant-slash-backyard-party operates from a home just northeast of Dodger Stadium in Solano Canyon.
The restaurant-slash-backyard-party operates from a home just northeast of Dodger Stadium in Solano Canyon.

Nawal

838 Solano Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012 Visit Website
Something for the Weekend

4 Restaurants to Try This Weekend in Los Angeles

AM Intel

4 New Pizza Spots to Check Out This Month in Los Angeles

LA Restaurant Openings

An LA Sushi Vet Quietly Opens a Japanese-Peruvian Dining Compound in the Valley

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Los Angeles newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world