Once in a while it so happens that my yearning for sweets reaches the apex of madness and it so occurred on this gusty evening in Chicago. I searched for some authentic desserts while I was near Devon Avenue and I came across this place famous for some authentic Knafeh and Arabian sweetmeats in general. I couldn't wait more but visit this gem of a place.
This is Jaafer Sweets. Situated in the north side of Chicago, this place is serving Middle Eastern sweets to the locals since 16 years with a reputation of making them from scratch. Need I ask more than dive inside.
Winter is long gone but not the festivity of lights. A brightly illuminated interiors greet you whilst entering and the warmth emanating from the freshly prepared sweets just add to the aura of the place. It smells heavenly inside and I was in no mood of fooling around, so I ordered each of every dessert onto a platter.
An all inclusive Assorted Sweet Tray. I literally came up with that name as it sounded apt. These sweets are made everyday and are quite fresh and look appetizing enough for me to down them all. I have also ordered knafeh but that is made to order so lets relish these beauties while that is getting ready.
Individual photos would dry up the post and hence let's talk about each specialty from left to right starting from the bottom. Is that ok, guys?
I knew my readers would want me to screw over multiple images but...Ahh, its me being lazy.
The first one is Fatayar. A cheese pie with multiple thin layers of phyllo dough with cheese stuffed inside. Such was the intricacy in the layers, that I lost myself amidst them. It was flaky and the feta cheese was the right quantity. The dough was savory enough to not overpower the cheese and rather acted as a catalyst to enhance it. Wouldn't be part of the sweet tray though.
Next one is Zalabia. Also, known as Jalebi in South Asian countries, this circle of fried dough dipped in sweet syrup is an instant favorite of mine. You get the crispness from the outside and the gooey batter which has soaked in the syrup from the interior conjoining a nice combination. However, the sweetness quotient could have been high on this one but still is not a bummer by any means.
Next is the traditional Walnut Baklava. I doubt if there exists an anomaly in humankind who wouldn't like it. Well, I am the common man here and I am all for this goodness. A crunchy phyllo dough stuffed with roasted walnuts & cinnamon in melting butter is finally soaked in a syrup made of honey and a hint of vanilla extract. It was the best I had in recent times of a baklava. Go for it, guys!
Moving on to the next row of sweets, I would consider the bright red dessert as part of the second row which is called Halawa. Something made me think it would be a rose flavored halawa and I went gaga over it. But this was a coconut flavored dessert with coloring added to it. Not that much of a bite to it. I would skip on this one.
The one next is Cherry Baklava. I was excited and wary of this as I never heard of a combination involving cherries into this marvel. Blanched cherries in a syrup would be stuffed along with the traditional ingredients. This was the best of them all. I had to order another one as I just fell in awe of this marvel.
Right next to it is Chocolate Baklava with Dates. It is one of the specialty of this place and I went into it with an open mind not knowing what to expect. Well, the expectations have been fulfilled upto the last bite to say as the brownie like baklava was the best and pairing it with dates just made it otherworldly.
Next is the Bird's Nest. A phyllo dough pastry formed like a birds nest is stuffed with roasted pistachios and infused with butter and soaked in a rich sweet syrup to give this one an ultimate taste to be remembered forever. Pistachios have this charm and when used rightly with a dessert, it creates something to cherish.
Finally, we have the Cashew Fingers. Why would I leave this dry fruit of all? Finely chopped roasted cashews with a hint of cinnamon and honey and yeah, lots of butter is rolled onto a bed of thin phyllo dough and is wrapped to create this wonderful finger. So rich and delectable!
And, now comes the final order.
It is Knafeh. A traditional Palestine dessert which has received accolades all over the world, tastes best when served warm and this location is the goto option for getting a bite of the authenticity.
The layers on the top and bottom are called as Kataifi, which is shredded phyllo dough which resembles the base of a bird's nest in appearance. The stuffing consists of ricotta cheese. It is baked to perfection and then all of this goodness is topped with roasted pistachios.
Eventually, the entire cheese pastry is soaked in a amber colored syrup infused with honey and butter and then served warm right off the oven. They also give you a bottle of syrup if you don't find it sufficient. This dessert is something I have never tried in my life and it's not that sweet unless you douse it with more syrup.
But with that being said, I loved every bit of this cheese pastry. The savoriness from the ricotta cheese, the crispy fried dough, the freshly roasted pistachios and all of them dipped in a syrup made for kings. I suggest, the more the better. Just pour the syrup whole heartedly as 'Tis always the season for sweets!
A place which makes your soul fill with joy and fervor, would never be a bad choice, trust me!
4825 N Kedzie Ave Chicago, IL 60625
Value For Money: 7.5/10