Shakshuka shake-up in Atlanta

Local restaurants bring distinct touches to the classic egg and tomato dish

Certain food words are just plain fun to say. Paw paw. Okonomiyaki. Shakshuka.

When it comes to shakshuka, I’ve heard a variety of pronunciations: “shack-shoo-ka,” “shack-shy-ka,” “shuck-shoo-ka” and “shock-shoo-ka,” among them.

No matter which way you say it, the word has a certain rhythm to it, one that incites busting a move on the dance floor.

Shakshuka is a party dish, after all. Which is curious since, at its most basic, shakshuka is essentially just eggs baked in tomato sauce. Oh, but a dish with bright, wobbly eggs nestled snugly in warm, often spicy tomato sauce hefted up with onions and peppers makes for a festive display and fantastic eating — especially this time of year when there’s a cold wind blowing.

Shakshuka has its origins in the Middle East, yet that’s hardly the only region of the globe with an eggs-plus-sauce number. Spain has “huevos a la flamenca,” an Andalusian-style preparation you can find at Bar Mercado at Krog Street. Around town, you’ll encounter multiple iterations that employ traditional Southern ingredients, like grits or greens sharing space with eggs in a cast-iron skillet, of course.

While shakshuka can be a dinner dish, you’re more apt to see it on weekend brunch menus. And if you find yourself waking up after a night of too much merrymaking, well, shakshuka also happens to be a hearty cure for a hangover.

Shakshuka at Alon’s Bakery & Market

After 25 years in business, Alon’s has developed a reputation not just for its baked goods and pantry perks, but for many a prepared dish (falafel, anyone?), including shakshuka. Only available on weekends at the Dunwoody location, this interpretation brings a couple of poached eggs in a zippy, tomato-chunked sauce, further livened with rounds of Moroccan lamb sausage. For those who crave a runny yolk, when it comes to shakshuka, Alon’s servers have your back; orders arrive to the table with eggs that are puncture-perfect.

Alon’s Bakery & Market. 4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road NE, Dunwoody.

Southern Shakshuka at Tupelo Honey

Grits go with just about everything, as the shakshuka at Tupelo Honey goes to show. This Middle Eastern-Southern gastro marriage from the comfort food dining concept birthed in Asheville, N.C., features a duo of eggs baked in a mildly spicy Creole sauce, all atop a bed of creamy goat cheese grits. Garnishes of avocado slivers and wisps of lamb’s lettuce lend texture and color. This is one Southern belle.

Tupelo Honey. 4600 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-649-6334,

Green Shakshuka at Mediterranea

Whereas a traditional shakshuka is decked out in red, Mediterranea goes green with leafy brassicas in lieu of tomatoes. The roughage changes depending on what’s available at nearby farmers markets; in a recent rendition of this weekend brunch-only menu item, the kitchen put to use braised escarole and celery. Dollops of garlicky yogurt reconnect the dish to its Middle Eastern roots and are one more element that provides enough saucy liquid to warrant sopping up. So order a side of toast. The bread, like everything at this Grant Park gem, is gluten-free. You won’t notice. What may strike you is just how tasty “clean” eating can be.

Mediterranea. 332 Ormond St. SE, Atlanta. 404-748-4219,

Shakshuka at Pita Grille

The kosher crowd can get its fair share of shakshuka, too. A standard menu item, available anytime that counter service-style eatery Pita Grille is open (not Saturdays), this one is homey, but filling. Two poached eggs are buried under a stewy sauce of tomatoes, peppers and onions, and it comes with a simple Israeli side salad, pita and a helping of fries or rice. It is served modestly on a disposable plate, but the cobalt blue cafeteria tray is something of an upgrade. If you keep kosher, keep an eye out for the mid-January opening of Formaggio Mio, which will soon be serving up kosher dairy and parve cuisine — including numerous shakshuka versions, even a vegan one made with eggplant instead of eggs — in the former Broadway Café space at 2157 Briarcliff Road at the intersection of LaVista.

Pita Grille. 4630 Wieuca Road, Atlanta. 404-500-4339,

Huevos a la Flamenca at Bar Mercado

The Castellucci Hospitality Group brings on the fiesta with this elegant brunch dish at its newest Iberian-inflected concept, Bar Mercado at Krog Street Market. Sure, you could say it’s just “baked eggs, a spicy tomato stew, piquillo peppers and goat cheese,” as the menu reads. But the care given to the sauce and eggs is notable. Exec chef John Castellucci hits the mark with a sauce that, for a Spanish dish, is smokier and more heat-laden than expected (the heat comes from dried serranos, the smoke from ancho chiles and Spanish paprika). And the eggs take a steam bath in the combi oven, remaining nice, moist and happily giggly instead of rubbery. This one comes with a few slices of grilled bread. Ask for more. I guarantee you’ll need ‘em.

Bar Mercado. 99 Krog St. NE, Atlanta. 404-480-4866,

Hum-Shuka at the Canteen

At new Midtown food hall the Canteen, Sunday brunch brings a choice of either shakshuka or a shakshuka shake-up called Hum-Shuka. For the latter, chef-partner Todd Ginsberg and team bring an added dimension to the dish by layering a ladleful of hummus to the bowl before adding the all-important tomato sauce (this one holds Calabrian red pepper and preserved lemon). In both instances, two baked eggs sit in the center, ringed by briny black and green olives and freshly chopped parsley. The side of warm pita is an essential utensil for transporting the whole mess of goodness from tray to tongue. Order it at the TGM Bagel counter. Pick it up at the Yalla food station. Scarf it with soon-to-be friends at one of the communal tables.

The Canteen. 75 Fifth St. NW, Atlanta.

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