At Tahaza Hummus Kitchen, Fast Casual Food and Fast Friends

tahaza hummus kitchenPhotos by Morgan Ione Yeager

Cambridge’s latest fast casual dining option might just have you rethinking your favorite dip.

Tahaza Hummus Kitchen, which opened earlier this week at 1 Canal Park, is highlighting hummus rather than relegating it to the realm of snack packs and party platters. The restaurant’s build-your-own bowls, wraps and salads are made with local ingredients prepped in-house, and the highlight—the hummus—is also made from scratch in the Tahaza kitchen.

Tahaza has been a long time in the making for founder Emily DeBonis, who initially thought about opening a Mediterranean restaurant in this style years ago while she was living in London. There, she first encountered eateries that treat the chickpea-based spread as more than just a condiment.

“It was the first time I had experienced hummus as the main part of a meal rather than an appetizer—something you dip a chip in,” DeBonis says, explaining that the filling, healthy protein can more than hold its own on a plate. She thought about trying to bring that same appreciation for hummus stateside for years, but life, her teaching job and becoming a parent twice over kept her from seriously pursuing that dream. About a year and a half ago, she decided to commit to opening her own place.

tahaza hummus

DeBonis says her vision has already been garnering appreciation from the people who work in East Cambridge’s many offices, and who until recently had only a food court (Chipotle, anyone?) to satisfy their lunchtime cravings. “These are all startups, they’re all young people … who are just in need of some good food,” DeBonis says. Besides, she’s already won over her toughest customer, Tahaza GM Tara Brydle. Brydle and DeBonis are best friends of 15 years, and DeBonis knew she wanted her to come work on this new venture. It took more than a little prodding, but Brydle eventually dropped everything—her life in Los Angeles, her 12-year career with Starbucks, “even my husband!” she says—to move to Somerville and begin working with her best friend. (Don’t worry: Her husband is coming to visit later this month.)

The flavors at Tahaza may hail from the Mediterranean, but the restaurant’s ingredients are all local and fresh. The veggie offerings will change depending on what’s seasonal. Right now, it’s carrots, tomatoes and mushrooms, delivered by a guy located just down the street from the restaurant, that are clamoring for a spot in your next build-your-own bowl. And diners who like to polish off their meal with a sweet treat will be happy to hear that Tahaza is selling two-bite cookies from Somerville’s Kitchen Millie. “Food that comes locally is just better!” DeBonis effuses.

With less than a week of service under her belt, there’s likely some slight retooling in the future for this first-time restaurateur. One thing that won’t change? A focus on bringing healthy, local, organic food to the neighborhood.

“I would be lying if I said there weren’t hiccups over the last few days,” DeBonis says. “But the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”

tahaza hummus kitchen

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