A restorative mystery smoothie called a Grape Fizz, dropped off by sympathetic friends on one of those all-work-no-play days, is what originally induced me to further explore five-month-old Lemon Fizz. The remarkably refreshing, rich elixir was possibly the most satisfying smoothie I'd ever downed.
An in-person look at the menu instantly cleared up the mystery. Though all the "smoothies" are made from fresh fruit, several, including the Grape Fizz, contain vanilla ice cream. In other words, they're very good milk shakes (or frappés, for food definition sticklers), not health food. But the cheery café does offer Spartan fruit-only smoothies for dieters, as well as a few purely sinful syrup-based chocolate and vanilla shakes.
Also served are foods ranging from the usual suspects (soups and salads) to more unexpected fare like global "rice delights" (brown rice topped with grilled chicken and a choice of sauces from many nations). But the real reason to visit Lemon Fizz is the unique house specialty: saj, a circular, leavened, yet paper-thin Syrian flatbread.
16310 W Dixie Hwy, North Miami Beach; 305-949-6599. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The bread's proper name is actually manaqish. But because that moniker is meaningful mainly to Scrabble players, most people refer to the bread by the name of the implement upon which it's cooked — a hot metal dome that looks like the top half of a flying saucer. At Lemon Fizz, where breads are made to order, the chef achieves saj's signature near-translucent thinness by twirling the circles two-handed, like pizza dough, and then slapping it on what looks like a comfy cushion to transfer the delicate pizza to the dish.
Except for its lusciously blistered surface, though, the finished flatbread bears little resemblance to pizza; its interior texture is much more tender. It resembles freshly made pita, except it is single-layered, not double.
That makes saj ideal for wraps, and Lemon Fizz has 27, with fillings from all over the globe. These range from tasty classic falafel patties (with hummus, tahini, tomato, and lettuce) to more elaborate creations: steak or chicken fajita fillings, Italian hot dogs, peanut butter/chocolate spread. But one of the most satisfying stuffings is also the simplest (and most traditional in Syria, the owners' native nation): za'atar. Though the menu calls this mixture "thyme and olive oil," it's really a full, savory herbal mélange of thyme, EVOO, sumac, and sesame seeds.
For the same price, there's an equally appealing Middle Eastern filling of labneh (thick, creamy, tangy yogurt cheese) and nicely brined olives. Of the eatery's nontraditional fillings, fresh strawberries and Nutella worked beautifully in a dessert saj.
The best wraps in town? Probably. After you have one at Lemon Fizz, the thought of going back to the sort made with packaged flour tortillas — which not only look like paper but also taste like it — is unthinkable.
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