I've been wanting to write about Babylon Cafe for the longest time, but it seemed I always forgot my phone or left the camera behind when I went there. We mostly went there between the summers of 2008 and 2009, because we used to live just down the street. Now, it's a rarer occurrence, but Babylon still calls to us now and then. It's the bread, people. It's the bread.
They've been winning awards for this bread for years. Paul has a credible take on their bread, because he lived in Jerusalem for a short time when he was 16. He says it's the closest he's ever had in the States to the bread they got everywhere in Jerusalem. This bread is like a dream, a story, and a vague old memory tangled up together, only it's not really your dream, story, or memory, but more of an overall human one. It feels authentically ancient, with its light, oily crust and fluffy interior. It's not that far from focaccia, texture-wise, but the final effect is less salty and flavored, and more lightness and background. The bread is available with any of their wonderful dips (hummus, ful, qudsia, labneh) or as the bread for their baked sandwiches (eggplant, spinach) or their platters (gyros, shawarma). I recommend you choose it over the pita without question. They call it "homemade bread."
We've probably been to Babylon about 25 or 30 times. I used to go there for lunch when I worked at Tulane, and my favorite thing to get was the appetizer sampler with a basket of bread for $13, and split it with whoever was with me. It included dolmades, two or three dips, baba ganouj, falafel, and tabouleh, and was more than enough goodness for two. But we've also tried the gyros and shawarma, lamb chops, salmon, baked eggplant sandwich, salads, lentil soup, kibbeh (a football-shaped ground meat fritter), and kabobs, and they're ALL GOOD.
beef shawarma plate
gyros platter with dolmades (lower right) and kibbeh (lower left)
chicken shawarma platter
chicken shawarma salad
The cafe now has some tables outside for taking advantage of springtime weather; they're on the sidewalk, not a beautiful courtyard, but the intention is still there. Maple Street is relatively quiet and full of lots of people strolling along, looking for good places to eat. If you're at Babylon, you've found one of the best, so relax and enjoy it.