Clinton Street Baking Company from New York now in Dubai

In a city that often (mistakenly) considers TGI Fridays and Olive Garden as America’s best restaurants, Clinton Street Baking Company offers Dubai a refreshing — and much more authentic — view of American cuisine and discerning diners in the city are taking note.
The brothers Ashraf and Hisham Samawi who brought the Clinton Street Baking Company to Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National
The brothers Ashraf and Hisham Samawi who brought the Clinton Street Baking Company to Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

Nestled at the base of the Burj Views residential complex in Dubai, Clinton Street Baking Company is easy to miss. Taste the food, though, and it’s hard to forget. The restaurant, which serves American classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner, has found its niche in Dubai’s dining scene: good food served all day long – and it’s all organic, right down to the coffee and the homemade milkshakes.

“Every single thing we serve is organic,” says Hisham Samawi, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother. “The ingredients that we’re sourcing are better than most of the five-star ­restaurants here. We’re not compromising on that.”

The restaurant is serious about high-quality food made with ingredients sourced from around the world, but it is neither flashy nor high-end. The eatery, which seats 55, is cosy and warm, the simple wooden tables and chairs adding to the casual, low-key atmosphere. But the food ­competes with the best restaurants in the city. Not in presentation, necessarily – there are no desserts topped with gold leaf – but in taste. Just ask any of the regulars who wait up to two hours for a table every weekend.

“The one thing I never will do is cut quality for any reason,” says Samawi. “My goal isn’t bottom line. It’s top line. It’s to get people here to have a good time and to have a good experience. We make everything ourselves. We make hot sauces. We make our own raspberry jam. We make a jalapeño sour cream. We make our own barbecue sauce. We have a special maple butter that’s our signature sauce on the pancakes that everybody goes crazy for.”

Those pancakes made the Clinton Street Baking Company famous in New York, where ­Samawi lived for six years. “When I first started going there, it was a quaint little place,” he says. “The food was amazing. Over the years, I saw it go from this little neighbourhood cafe to this place where all of a sudden, I’m waiting two hours to eat.”

When Samawi left New York for Dubai to start an entrepreneurial career (he’s also the co-owner of Ayyam Gallery), he mourned the loss of his favourite eatery and longed for a similar cafe in Dubai where he could get high-quality food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I felt that Dubai was missing a ‘wow’ food experience during the day,” says Samawi. He ­contacted the owners of Clinton Street in New York and, with no previous experience operating a restaurant, he made a deal to bring it to Dubai.

The Dubai branch, which also boasts an organic bakery, serves up American classics with a decidedly southern twist. In ­addition to the famous pancakes, you’ll find chicken and waffles, fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, jalapeño cornbread and spicy shrimp and grits – an iconic southern American dish (grits are coarsely ground corn kernels boiled in milk or water, similar to polenta). It also does buttermilk fried chicken and barbecue beef short ribs that have been smoked for 15 hours. In a city that often (mistakenly) considers TGI Fridays and Olive Garden among the US’s top ­restaurants, Clinton Street offers Dubai a refreshing – and much more authentic – view of ­American cuisine, and discerning ­diners in the city are taking note.

sjohnson@thenational.ae

Published: December 13, 2014 04:00 AM

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