Celesta’s Dinner Party Series Kicks Off with an Homage to Abu’s

A special four-course dinner serves old favorites from a well-known, departed Middle Eastern restaurant.

Since opening in June, the East Side’s Celesta (1978 N. Farwell Ave.), the restaurant that grew out of a successful series of Beatrix Foods pop-up food events, is helping make the local plant-based movement particularly soulful and flavorful. And beyond serving its regular menu (with a specials board), owner Melanie Manuel is evolving the business in more ways than daily service.

Celesta is starting a new Dinner Party series. The first one, on Sunday Nov. 25 at 5:30 p.m., pays tribute to the restaurant that defined that space ­– Abu’s Jerusalem of the Gold, whose Middle Eastern specialties included falafel, (meat-based) shawarma and tabbouleh. Abu’s, whose run lasted from the late 1970s to late 2010, also served a rosewater lemonade that grew so popular that Celesta’s Manuel got the recipe and serves it now at her restaurant.

The dinner, served family-style, includes hummus and pita, tabbouleh, spinach pie, Mujaddara (rice-lentil pilaf), Lebanese okra, falafel and (for dessert) asafiri, which is a wonderful filled pancake. Plus Arabic coffee or tea, to finish the meal.

Tickets are limited for this dinner, so make your reservation now. Early-bird tickets are $50 per person. 

Another building history detail: After Abu’s closed, the space was occupied by Thai restaurant Jownai Fouquet until August 2017.     

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.