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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lunch-Only Sababa Has 120 Permutations of Jewish-Middle Eastern Goodness

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2016 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge 7400bb88-8517-451e-bb09-4994b15d9b5d.jpeg

Only a few weeks after the debut of its truly great Mexican restaurant, Fénix, the Mercer Restaurant Group has opened a quieter, less ambitious, but no less delicious lunch spot in the Financial District: Sababa. While nominally a Middle Eastern restaurant, it might be more accurate to describe the various dishes as “pan-Jewish diaspora.” Although you won’t find bailies or celery soda, there are things like sabik (eggplant and a 300-minute egg) and an Israeli salad with chopped tomato, cucumber, and onion.

Here, you choose your protein, your base, and two out of five salads, making for 120 possible combinations even before adding on items like avocados, feta, or roasted peppers. My visit became one of those lunches where, since I knew I’d be eating healthfully, I figured I’d just go way, way overboard and assemble the biggest and most nutritious monstrosity I could. (If you object that that’s foolish in caloric terms, you’re too late; I already put my fingers in my ears and scrunched my eyes closed.) In any case, if you don’t object to spending $19.94 on lunch, this is the place to do it.

I got a sabik bowl with roasted cauliflower and quinoa tabouli, along with a frozen mint “limonana” (which tasted like a fancy version of a Slush Puppy, and didn’t dye my tongue). After looking at the bowl, the tug of the pita felt irresistible, so I threw one on for an extra dollar. (Good move.) It's a deep pile of vegetables, the minty quinoa balancing out the savory, nutty cauliflower under the guidance of an egg that — had the yolk not been cooked through — would not have been out of place in a bowl of creamy ramen. I love halal street food for its rough edges and borderline angry flavors, but this was food that would never lose its temper. Maybe because there were pickles in lieu of hot sauce, I don't know.

There are only 14 seats inside, and Sababa is only open from 11 a.m. until 3 a.m. In other words, all signs point to long lines developing before long. So get cracking on working your way through those 120 permutations soon, and start with the egg.

Sababa329 Kearny St., 415-800-6853 or

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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