Beyond the Bakery: Lebanese Breakfast at Cedars

In this week's cafe review, we trek out to Richmond and Dunvale to investigate the offerings at Cedars Bakery. Because despite the name, there's much more to enjoy at this Lebanese bakery besides the pita bread.

The bakery's big draw on the weekends -- besides the fluffy, freshly-baked pita bread that they can't keep on the shelves -- is the shawarma. Beef or chicken, it's a specialty here that's only available on Saturdays and Sundays. But I come here for the breakfast.

Although it makes my best friend cringe when I call them such, Lebanese "breakfast pizzas" are one of my favorite discoveries of the year. I'd never had mana'eesh before eating at Cedars, and now I'm hooked on the stuff.

The flatbreads are made with a pita base, topped with salty halloum cheese or a diced vegetable mixture of tomatoes, bell peppers and onions called harhoura that tastes like a veggie pizza sans the mozzarella.

And, true to my Texan roots, my favorite flatbread is covered with what looks and tastes like Lebanese chorizo.

Sojok, as it's spelled on Cedars's menu, is a dry, crumbly sausage made with beef -- not pork, of course -- that's popular throughout the Middle East. It's flavored with the same spices as chorizo: cumin, garlic, red pepper. And, like chorizo, it's widely used in breakfast applications.

Here, the sojok is mixed with equally crumbly cheese and spread across the top of a piece of pita bread before it makes its way into the huge, bellowing ovens in the center of the store. The cheese melts quickly, adhering itself and the savory sojok to the bread. The result is a "breakfast pizza" that is salty, meaty and just a bit chewy -- not too far removed from a chorizo-filled breakfast taco, really.

And like both breakfast tacos and Brooklyn-style pizzas, you want to fold the outer portion in on itself, creating a soft yet sturdy exterior for maximum food delivery potential. This ensures that none of the meat falls off, and is especially crucial when eating the harhoura pizza.

My other favorite, the "half-and-half," is an entirely different story, however. Covered with zaatar (a typical Middle Eastern spice blend) on one side and salty cheese on the other, it requires both a different eating technique and a special side dish to make your meal truly complete.

Want to discover the secrets yourself? Check out this week's cafe review, then head over to our slideshow while you're at it -- the photos alone will ensure tha you'll be making a trip to Cedars this weekend for some Lebanese breakfast pizza of your own.

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Katharine Shilcutt