Lebanese hummus restaurant chain Semsom just opened its first U.S. outlet on Astor Place a few weeks ago. The owners, two sisters, who already run 30 outlets around the Middle East tweaked the concept for this store. It's more fast casual (pick your wrap or a bowl, top with protein, add sauce) than a traditional hummus spot, but it's perhaps the first Middle Eastern fast casual spot in NYC that doesn't center around falafel or shwarma. At Semsom, there are Lebanese meatballs with Pat LaFrieda meat, turmeric chicken, and vegetarian options like a pumpkin patty and grilled cauliflower. Still, there's hummus to be had, mixed with Sriracha, or beets, or mint and olives, and the shop is selling manoosh, a traditional Lebanese bread, slathered with labne or Nutella. There's also a small market or souk area selling spices, pomegranate molasses, and just a few other Lebanese kitchen staples.
The sisters plan to open other outlets in NYC this year and if they stick to their original plan from late last year, the ultimate goal is to open 200 outlets across the country by 2020. But, come fall, they will have some competition from the Sussman brothers' scalable Middle Eastern concept Samesa.