Having lived in Damascus for a year now, my husband and I have acquired quite a few “favorites” around the city. There are certain restaurants, patisseries, and shops in Damascus that have endeared themselves to us with their friendly workers, pleasant atmosphere, and top-notch products. Here are a few.
Our Favorite Patisserie (The Parfait)
When my husband came to Damascus for the first time, it was in the spring of 2001. He and the group of BYU students he was with stayed in a place called Medinat es-Shebaab, “Youth City.” It was a glorified hostel of sorts: 4 people to a room, breakfast served in a dingy canteen, and one phone line for the whole building (which made phone calls home to his girlfriend inconvenient, to say the least. I should remember – I was that girlfriend). After a few days, he got sick of eating boiled eggs and flatbread every morning for breakfast, and set out in search of something new. He found a place around the corner called Barfait – The Parfait in English.
It’s a patisserie, which is more than a bakery but less than a café. They sell all kinds of pastries, cakes, and ice cream, as well as sundry little delicacies whose names I don’t know. From then on, Jeremy ate croissants at the Barfait for breakfast. When we came back to Damascus 3 years later – together and married this time – he took me to this favorite old haunt. Many members of the staff were the same, and a few even remembered him from years before. Jeremy had already raved to me about their ice cream and pastries, and I quickly fell in love with them, too. Our favorite thing to get is just a cup of ice cream: three scoops with whipped cream, or four scoops without, for 25 lira. They have tons of different kinds of ice cream and they’re all delicious. We usually end up getting some combination of chocolate, strawberry, lemon, and vanilla ice cream with chunks of cake in it. If we’re in the mood for a snack, we love their jibnes – it’s what we call their sesame rolls with melted cheese in the center. They also have delicious mini pizzas and croissants with various fillings. For special occasions, we like to order a two-flavor ice cream cake for 500 lira. The chocolate and strawberry version is heavenly, and serves a lot of people (while still leaving enough leftovers for Jeremy and me to enjoy the next day). If you’re in Damascus for any length of time, you simply must go to Barfait. It’s a prime example of a bustling, Syrian-owned business with excellent, friendly service and high quality goods. Their clientele is very mixed – you’ll see anyone from normal Syrian families out for a treat to fashionably dressed women picking up elaborate party trays. Of course, there is no real address for me to give you, but I can tell you that it is located down the street from (to the east) the United Colors of Benetton store in Mezze Sharqie. It’s pretty famous, so if you ask anyone in the area, they should know where it is.