Seeking a next-level bar snack? How about a mash up of shawarma (the classic Middle Eastern street food) and French fries? Think thin strips of tender, long-marinated rib-eye steak, dotted with shavings of parmesan cheese and drizzled with a tzatziki-style sauce, rich with cucumber, citrus, and yogurt—all on top of a pile of crispy fries. Called “Street Fries” at Bar 25, which opened in May in Newburyport, the dish is a playful mix of American and Middle Eastern flavors, reflective of the menu overall.
The concept is close to the heart of owner Reza Rahmani, who immigrated from Iran as a child. He draws upon his family’s recipes as a jumping off point for the menu, rooted in Persian food combined with a vision of contemporary shared plates, cocktail culture, and conviviality.
It’s a smart concept for the former Ceia Kitchen + Bar space, with plenty of patio seating for the summer and a menu of sharable snacks and small entrees, ideal for grazing. The selection of hummus is a good place to start—the classic familiar version, called The Olive Tree on the menu, is a Rahmani family recipe. The light fresh mix of chickpeas, olive oil, fresh garlic, and sesame paste is brightened with fresh-squeezed lime juice. Chef Joe Messina uses that classic base to create several variations: the Aubergine gets a pleasing texture from the addition of flash-fried eggplant and roasted grape tomatoes, while the Imperial Orb is rich and slightly sweet, blended with goat cheese, walnuts, and a pomegranate reduction. All are served with house-made bread.
Hummus is naturally vegetarian, and people wanting to skip the meat will find many other options across the menu as well, including halloumi cheese, several eggplant dishes, and falafel. Not to mention a menu of enticing salads, all of which use locally grown Little Leaf Farms lettuce and house-made dressings. For a heartier dish, try The Roots, a mix of lettuce, sweet roasted beets, goat cheese, hydrated walnuts, and carrots, topped with a creamy pomegranate balsamic reduction.
For main courses, you can even get a vegetarian mini shawarma, stuffed with eggplant falafel, but carnivores are well served too, with steak, lamb, chicken, or shrimp—all of which are available in a shawarma sandwich or as a kebab. All the meats are packed with flavor—the Saffron Chicken marinates overnight in a mix of floral earthy saffron (natch), citrus, yogurt, and spices, making it tender, moist, and enticing.
In a nod to American bar culture, Rahmani figured he should offer a burger, and the B25 Slider is a winner—a plump quarter pound of high-quality beef, topped with griddled onion, brie, bacon, tomato, and Bar 25’s secret sauce. Order it with a side of truffle fries, topped with crumbles of black truffle paté and parmesan, or get your carbs Persian-style: Rice is an important element of Middle Eastern food and Bar 25 offers several variations, including a classic Saffron Basmati. It’s lovely, but we’d suggest you get adventurous and try the Barberry Basmati. Barberries are tiny and tart, similar to cranberries—they add a bright bite to the fluffy rice.
Do not overlook the cocktail list—following in the footsteps of Rahmani’s first Bar 25 location in Ayer, the focus under bar manager Kyle Schmider is on top-shelf liquor and fresh-squeezed juices. Perhaps in anticipation of the cozy third-floor lounge, slated to open this summer, Schmider is playing with classic Prohibition–era cocktails, and whimsical names that are an ode to Phish and Grateful Dead songs. “Wading in the Velvet Sea” for example is a head-turning variation of a whiskey sour blended with blueberry preserves—sweet and tart and a very pretty violet color. The “Down with Disease” is a strawberry-rhubarb upgrade on a margarita, perfect for spring sipping.
As the restaurant navigates its first season, they are keeping the dessert menu simple with a classic Persian dessert called Faloodeh—a rose water–inflected spin on granita, threaded through with rice noodles. Or you could opt for a dessert cocktail. We’d suggest Shmider’s spin on a Manhattan, made with Cynar and Rittenhouse Rye, infused with coffee.
25 State St., Newburyport, 978-255-3322, bar-25.com