A passage to Morocco on Second Avenue

By Jasmine Moy

If the blazing late summer sun has you longing for a taste of North Africa, this cozy, sultry East Village spot is ready and willing to transport you. With white brick walls, mirrors over banquettes, and tables covered in geometric patterned tiles, Nomad is warmly infused by the twinkling of ornate copper lamps hanging throughout. Hailing from Algeria, owners Salima and Mehenni Zebentout possess an innate sense of the confluence of Moroccan, Berber, and French influences that defines North African culture and cuisine.

A glass of vinho verde will start you off on the right foot, matched with an order of the dip trio. Thick hummus, cold and creamy cucumber raita, and nutty muhammara (made with roasted red peppers) all come with warmed wheat pita points; make sure this stays on the table for snacking throughout. The dish of mussels, in a savory cilantro and garlic chermoula sauce, is addictive enough already, but the pair of dense toasts—perfect for sopping up the rest of the broth after you’ve removed the last shells—puts it over the top.
For a classic take on a North African standard, look to the tagine. Lamb is braised with onions and red sauce until the meat is tender and falling from the bone, with prunes offering a light touch of sweetness and almonds adding texture. To truly transport yourself to Morocco though, try the pastilla: chicken and onions wrapped in a flaky phyllo dough and topped with cinnamon and sugar. As traditional as it gets, this dish nevertheless delivers a surprising combination of flavors.

By the time the sweetened mint tea arrives—served in customary long streams by a waiter holding the teapot high above your cup—you’ll be craving the small almond cookies for the perfectly sweet finish. Nibble on these ornately decorated, petite little bites while you decide to make that trip to Marrakech sooner than you thought.


Sun–Thu 3 PM–11 PM; Fri–Sat 3 PM–midnight

price range

$8 (halumi cheese grape leaves) to $23 (seafood couscous)