A cozy North African escape in the East Village

By Hannah Howard

Nomad’s entrance is on bustling Second Avenue, but stepping inside is entering into another world altogether. A cozy and romantic space welcomes you, with murals on the stucco walls, North African antiques and crafts, and pretty copper lamps. A hot-coal oven blazes in the corner.

Owners Salima and Mehenni Zebentout come from Algeria, and embrace the diverse culinary influences of North Africa. Moroccan, Berber, and French ingredients and techniques make for a well-rounded and delicious menu, full of both familiar flavors and innovative dishes.

Start with labne, thick strained yogurt sprinkled with fragrant za’atar and drizzled with a generous amount of peppery olive oil. There’s, of course, plenty of warm, toasty pita for dipping. There’s also something about that oven. Anything that comes out of it, from crispy calamari to flatbread pizzas—try the Nomad, topped with sharp melty Cheddar and portabello—is exceptional.
The entrees are soul-satisfying and expertly executed. A merguez sandwich in crusty, warm house-made bread is stuffed with savory lamb sausages and chakchouka—eggs cooked in tomato sauce—and served with dreamy French fries. Lamb tajine comes in the gorgeous earthenware pot in which it was cooked. When the waiter opens the top, you can take in the perfume-y goodness of fall-off-the-bone lamb, sweet braised prunes and apricots, and caramelized onions. Spoon every last bit of that goodness over fluffy couscous.

For dessert, honey-soaked baklava is perfectly flaky, and walnut cake with spiced cherries is even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Traditional mint tea or inky coffee make the meal go down easy.


Sun–Fri 3 PM–11 PM; Sat 3 PM–midnight

price range

$15 (merguez sandwich) to $23 (seafood couscous)