If ever a brunch food was having a moment, this would be it for shakshuka.
The saucy dish is a breakfast staple in North African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern countries, and in recent years has spread in popularity to breakfast and brunch menus in the US, aided by the rise in popularity of modern Israeli food from chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Michael Solomonov.
With a base of stewed tomatoes, poached eggs, and an aromatic blend of spices, shakshuka is both a gratifying morning dish and a hearty midday meal, the perfect hangover food and a nuanced stew.
If you’re a shakshuka newbie — or a longtime fan of the hearty entree — here are five restaurants serving standout versions.
Shakshuka at Bar Mercato
As shakshuka becomes a standard brunch showing, restaurants are taking creative liberties with their own versions. Case in point: the shakshuka at Bar Mercato, the recently opened downtown eatery that’s inspired by a European food hall, which serves its take during daily brunch (11 a.m.–3 p.m.). In addition to the peppers and onions that swim around in a thick tomato sauce, this shakshuka has fried boquerones (anchovies) sitting on top, providing a substantial crunch with every spoonful. On the side, triangles of flaky spanakopita sit ready to be dunked into the tomato stew; if you’d prefer to eat them as-is, slices of bread are available for dipping as well. Eggs will arrive as ordered, though we recommend requesting them over easy. (54 Devonshire St., Boston)
Shakshuka at Cafe Landwer
While most restaurants serving shakshuka are content with offering one or two versions, Cafe Landwer has created four stellar interpretations for brunch-goers at both its Fenway-Kenmore and Brighton locations. The most traditional option is Landwer’s Shakshuka, with two poached eggs in a classic tomato stew, accompanied by either challah or multigrain bread. But that’s just the starting point. The Mediterranean Shakshuka uses feta, roasted eggplant, and parsley, while the Halloumi Shakshuka incorporates crispy halloumi cheese for texture. The Green Shakshuka is the wild card: Bechamel sauce is subbed in for the tomato stew, while leeks and swiss chard give the dish a more vegetal focus. (900 Beacon St., Boston; 383 Chestnut Hill Ave., Brighton)
Shakshuka at Milkweed
You’ll need to ask for a to-go carton as soon as Milkweed’s shakshuka lands in front of you. The massive bowl is filled with small squares of feta, scallions, and a pool of thick, chunky tomatoes that you could turn into a spaghetti sauce later. With seeds still clinging to sweet cherry peppers, this shakshuka is not for the heat-averse. Thankfully, four triangles of challah bread are provided to quell the heat, or at least to sop up any excess egg yolk. Diners can choose from either homemade meatballs or falafel to add to the bowl, an extra protein that will keep you full long after Milkweed stops serving the shakshuka at 4 p.m. (1508 Tremont St., Boston)
Shakshuka at Simcha
Chef Avi Shemtov’s new Israeli restaurant Simcha can be found in a Sharon strip mall, a tucked-away enclave where brunch is offered just one day a week: Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On those mornings, you’ll find cast-iron pans of shakshuka adorning tables around the dining room, some with calamari or short rib or nduja sausage — add-ons that are constantly rotating. Two eggs are poached in the just-spicy-enough tomato sauce, accompanied by a divided saucer of tahini and zhoug, a cilantro-based sauce, that helps customize each bite. Included are two small rounds of pita that look like charming throw pillows, but they’re not just for looks: Break off a piece and drag it through the tomato stew for a clutch combo. (370 S. Main St., Sharon)
Shakshuka at Tatte Bakery and Cafe
“When I first started [making shakshuka], no one even knew how to pronounce it,” Tatte owner Tzurit Or told Boston.com in March. We certainly know how to pronounce shakshuka now. These days, the all-day menu at each of the 12 Tattes in the Boston area carries multiple versions of the dish. The traditional shakshuka arrives in a shallow pot on a wooden board and is piled high with feta and fresh parsley; thick slices of challah bread come alongside it. There’s also a lamb meatball and labneh variation, as well as a seasonal shakshuka — a recent winter version included roasted red potatoes, chickpeas, labneh, and cilantro sauce. (Multiple locations)