Two manakish

A spinach and feta cheese manakish, bottom, with a seasoned meat manakish. (Marian Liu, SouthFlorida.com / November 21, 2013)

First impression: Noor Bakery and Deli is the very definition of hole in the wall. But if you call yourself adventurous, you'll love it. West of I-95 and just north of Griffin Road, what the 8-year-old restaurant lacks in charm it more than makes up for with its made-to-order manakish. Manakish may best be described as Middle Eastern pizzas, although I understand they're often eaten at breakfast throughout Lebanon.

Ambience: I expected the inside of the little yellow building with the clay-tiled mansard to be much larger. Inside, five tables and seven chairs occupy what feels more like a waiting room for takeout orders than a proper dining room. People do eat there. We certainly did. But Noor is probably better for takeout than for eating in. You order from a counter, and while Arabic is the language of choice, there are plenty of English speakers, as well.

The menu: It's posted above the counter where you order, numbered 1 through 11. Here's the lineup of toppings: zatar, a kind of wonderfully sour Middle Eastern spice blend ($1.50); meat ($2.50); egg and cheese ($2); sujuk, a dry sausage ($2.50); labneh, a sour soft cheese made from yogurt ($2.50); spinach and feta cheese ($2.50); chicken ($3); akkawi, a mild white cheese ($2.75); mozzarella ($2.25); and shawarma chicken ($4). There are also spinach-and-feta and cheese-and-chicken mini pies ($1). All meat is halal.

The cooking method: After you place your order, 6-inch rounds of uncooked dough make their way from a back kitchen on cookie sheets. Some are already topped. Others are topped as you watch. The uncooked pies are then placed on a conveyor belt that makes its way through a vintage oven, which looks like an oversized version of the toasters you see in diners and delis. Each piping-hot pie is then placed on wax paper and placed on a tray. Most people fold the pies in half and start eating. I didn't see any forks or knives.


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Entree excellence: The crust of each pie tastes like the freshest pita bread you've ever eaten. Every topping I've tried is outstanding. But shawarma chicken is a favorite, where boneless, marinated chicken gets a drizzle of garlic sauce. Spinach and feta has the sour taste found in every Middle Eastern spinach dish. It's only improved by the salty feta. The sujuk, or sausage, has an almost sweet flavor. The chopped meat pie is a bit bland, but inoffensive to beef eaters. I'm a big fan of zatar, a mixture of dried thyme, oregano, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. But I think of zatar pies as snacks rather than lunch. Go for the heartier topped selections here.

Service: Friendly, but abrupt. That's probably because the guy who takes your order is cooking while interacting with customers. He's the original multitasker.

Insider tip: There's a lunchtime rush, so get here before 11:30 a.m. or after 2 p.m. to avoid the inevitable delays that come from making such a fresh product. One guy ordered two dozen spinach pies and held up the line for what seemed an eternity.

Liquid assets: If you want a beverage, you reach into the cooler and get yourself a soft drink, water or juice.

jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

Noor Bakery and Deli

4691 Ravenswood Road, Dania Beach

954-986-1944

Cuisine: Middle Eastern bakery items

Cost: Inexpensive

Hours: Breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Saturday

Credit cards: MC, V

Outside smoking: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Free lot