First Look: Afandi Sweets & Cafe

Afandi Sweets & Cafe opened on July 10 in the space previously occupied by River’s Edge Social at 6997 Chippewa St., in Lindenwood Park.

Chef and owner Jwamer Rasheed is a third generation pastry chef from Kurdistan in Northern Iraq where his family’s business started. In 1918, Rasheed’s grandfather, Saie Rasheed, opened a bakery. “My grandfather had seven sons, all of them are pastry chefs. My dad established his bakery in 1962. It’s a family business, and this is my first location,” Rasheed said.

Rasheed prides himself on making as much as he can from scratch for the menu — from the chicken stock in his lentil soup to the delicate phyllo dough for his varied baklava selection.

Rasheed makes a 25-pound batch of phyllo dough every day on a special machine that he shipped from Kurdistan; the dough making process takes five hours from start to finish. The resulting dough makes baklava that is fresh with shatteringly crisp, flaky dough.

“We have about eight varieties of baklava, sometimes more,” Rasheed said. He features varieties of baklava such as ballorieh with pistachios folded in shredded phyllo, and Burma where the phyllo is rolled into a tube shape with a walnut and honey filling. There also are versions of baklava with chocolate, pistachio, walnuts and cashews. Some styles have a lovely presentation like the esh el bolbol (bird's nest) where shredded phyllo is crafted into a nest shape and filled with pistachios glazed with honey. Baklava is sold by the pound — customers make their selections, and then staff pack them into a box and give them a final drizzle of honey.

On the savory side, the menu takes influences from different Middle-Eastern cuisines with dishes hailing from Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Iraqi makhlama is made with ground lamb that is sauteed with onions, tomatoes, scented with cumin, and served on a sizzling platter with sunny side up eggs and pita bread.

No matter what, start or end with the kenafeh — a bed of akkawi cheese (a white cow’s milk cheese) is topped with shredded phyllo dough and cooked, then drizzled with honey and chopped pistachios. It had everything you could want in a dish. It was salty and sweet with crunchy, golden phyllo and molten cheese. The mix grill came with lamb shish kabeb, shish tawook and kofta kabeb, which is made with a blend of ground beef, lamb and spices. The meat was served with a bulgar pilaf, a cucumber tomato salad and pita bread. Other menu items include a fresh, pressed juice menu, a hookah menu and ice creams from Serendipity.

The restaurant space at 6900 square feet seats 225 with two rooms for indoor seating, and the patio seats an additional 63. Afandi Sweets & Cafe is open Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. They’re offering delivery through Grubhub.