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Posted on Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 8 a.m.

Frugal Friday at Exotic Bakeries includes savory, topped flatbread and dessert for less than $5

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu, Contributor

I have to thank my friend Haran for today's Frugal Floozie Friday recommendation — he recently asked if I'd ever eaten at Exotic Bakeries, a place I've enjoyed many times but hadn't visited in ages and ages. He reminded me that "you can eat like a king for less than $5."

So it only seemed appropriate to eat dinner there recently. I took the opportunity to walk there and back on a gorgeous sunny fall evening, listening to new tunes I'd just uploaded to the ol' MP3 player.

Exotic Bakeries is a small, family-run restaurant featuring fabulous Syrian food; you can either stay and eat at one of the few tables or use the carry-out service. Some of the offerings, such as baklava, are familiar; many, however, are intriguing and unique. It was this latter category I wanted to savor.

So for a mere $2.50, I ordered a s'feeha — a soft, round flatbread topped with an amazingly flavorful spread of red peppers, walnuts, onions, and spices. The friendly gentleman who patiently waited while I perused the display cases and made my decision (we all know this is not something I excel at, especially when presented with too many delicious options!) warmed the s'feeha in a panini-like grill, slightly toasting the bread but still leaving it tender. This was an ideal vegetarian option, as I was in the mood for something light that evening.

For dessert — because, of course, everyone loves to get an entire meal within our Frugal Floozie Friday budget of $5 per person! — I ordered the namoura for $1.99.

Namoura is a traditional Middle Eastern cake that is also known as babousa. It's eggless and made with semolina; after baking, it is soaked in a citrusy honey syrup, making the treat very dense and lusciously sweet without being overly sugary. Topped with toasted pistachios, this was truly a delicious indulgence!

Exotic Bakeries was a very busy place when I visited, with two customers ahead of me, three already seated at a table and another five having come in while I ate. And yet, the charming gentleman behind the counter greeted everyone warmly, as though we were all guests in his home.

He beamed with pride when I asked for a take-out menu and for information about the website (having worn my sunglasses for my walk, which don't have an updated trifocal prescription, I couldn't read the card I was given!), proclaiming his establishment to be the only one in town offering Syrian cuisine.

There are numerous meat and vegetarian options at Exotic Bakeries that fall well within our Frugal Floozie Friday budget, including a wide variety of salads that are charged at prices per pound. The costs for entrees are so reasonable that you'll still have room for dessert even with only $5 to spend.

Exotic Bakeries
1721 Plymouth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

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Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 60 cooking contests and writes about her adventures in the kitchen. She was thrilled to have her post about Scottish Oatmeal Shortbread named as one of the daily "Best of the Blogs" by the prestigious Food News Journal.

Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related. Her newest feature is Frugal Floozie Friday, seeking fun and food for $5 or less ... really! Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here.