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A New Addition to the Arab Food Scene in Boston: Bab Al Yemen

posted on: Jun 15, 2022

By: Dina Kobeissi / Arab America Contributing Writer

Bab Al Yemen opened its doors earlier this year in the midst of bustling Boston right in Kenmore Square. This is the first location of the restaurant which uniquely serves Yemeni cuisine and provides a culturally-inspired atmosphere. Arab America contributing writer Dina Kobeissi, a Boston native herself, sat down with restaurant staff to uncover the inspiration behind Bab Al Yemen and to discuss the impact of the restaurant on the community.

The owner of Bab Al Yemen is of Yemeni descent and although he has owned other restaurants around the country, this is the first restaurant serving exclusively Yemeni food. “People had to drive hours from Boston for authentic Yemeni food” and so Bab Al Yemen fills a need, it fills the gap in authentic Arab food in Boston. In Bab Al Yemen you’ll find dishes hard to find elsewhere such as Lamb Mandi (لحم مندي) and Fahsah (فحسة لحم) in addition to glasses of delicious Adani Tea (شاي عدني).

Beyond the food however, Bab Al Yemen offers much more. Unlike many Arab food spots in Boston, Bab Al Yemen has multiple seating areas and intricate detailed designs throughout the restaurant. From the exterior alone, the windows present a unique and bright Arab architectural feel quite foreign to Bostonian buildings. “We had someone come in to design these, handmade for us, the carvings on the window and the colors.” The community itself has gotten a hand in designing Bab Al Yemen, highlighting its authenticity, but also its impact in the neighborhood for which it is situated. “We mainly serve two groups- those who we want to make feel at home and those we hope to educate and who can enjoy a unique cultural experience.”

Bab Al Yemen’s decor intentionally works to highlight the beauty of Yemeni culture and history. Downstairs, a collection of photographs of different areas in Yemen line the wall.

Upstairs, a traditional majlis seating area is a popular spot for people to sit and enjoy chai or a full meal. It’s not something you see very often. Many Arab restaurants in Boston are fast food style establishments. Bab Al Yemen uniquely provides a family friendly environment; its style and layout encourages one to sit with others, to chat and to discuss, something especially appreciated by college locals.

“Especially for the students, we try to keep the prices reasonable; we want to remain relatively affordable while maintaining our premium quality.” While the prices, quality, and portion sizes are appreciated, Bab Al Yemen also serves exclusively certified halal food which is quite limited in Boston. The prayer room downstairs further adds to the welcoming and comfortable feel of the restaurant for muslim patrons.

Not many know much about Arab culture much less Yemen and its traditions. Beyond an authentic menu, the detail in the restaurant leaves any diner with more than a great meal. Especially in a world where normalization of war in the Middle East is far too common, spaces like this one display the richness of Yemeni culture; there is far more to Yemen than conflict and war.

In fact, Yemen is famous for being the early hub for a drink many enjoy today- coffee. Coffee was cultivated by Yemenis in the past, and it continues to be produced and exported from Yemen today, including to Bab Al Yemen where it is served daily; the restaurant even even has its own coffee bar downstairs.

Likely the most interesting part of Bab Al Yemen is the model replica Yemeni town that sits at the back of the room downstairs. Highlighting Yemeni architecture and geography, the model is captivating and educational.

Places like Bab Al Yemen shine light into the Boston community. Offering cultural dishes and fostering an educational and cultural environment makes Bab Al Yemen more than just another restaurant in Boston.

Next time you’re near Fenway park, order some Adeni tea and catch a view of Boston’s famous Citgo sign from Bab Al Yemen’s outdoor seating, with some Yemeni landscape art on the side of course.