Restaurants & Street Food • Fez Adventures Part II
Eating out in Fez proved to be a mix of joys and challenges!
The first meal we had in the Fez medina was lunch at Café Clock, a restaurant that our host recommended as it was frequented by university students, so he thought it would be appropriate for young travelers like us. According to him it had higher sanitary standards than some other eateries one might find in the medina. The restaurant was also just a small hop away from our riad Dar El Menia, so it was a great starting point for our first day.
The setting at Café Clock was wonderful to soak in the atmosphere of our surroundings in the Fez medina. We sat on the terrace (which we found to be a common feature in buildings in the medina) and enjoyed a view of the skyline, including the hydraulic clock the café was named after.
We shared a few plates at Café Clock: the “Fez Platter” with Moroccan appetizers, Lamb Beldi Burger with a mint sauce, and Couscous Bouhaloo, which was juicy, roasted chicken with caramelized onion, raisins, almonds and apricots. Yum!!! That chicken was seriously covered with raisins and almonds.
The menu at Café Clock featured some interesting dishes, and I wish we had a chance to try everything. Another dish the restaurant is known for is the camel burger, which I’d probably try next time. If I visit Fes El Bali again, I’d also love to try taking cooking classes at Café Clock as well! They offer private and group classes on Moroccan cuisine, and I sure would love to replicate that juicy chicken in the Couscous Bouhaloo dish!
Anyway, on our first day in Fez, we did a lot of walking and figuring out our way through the medina, so when lunch time came along, we were completely famished.
On the western end of the medina, where Talaa Kebira met Talaa Seghira and near the city gate Bab Boujeloud, we found a food market that had fresh produce vendors, butchers, and various cooked food stalls. One could find all the street food they needed or splurge on a proper restaurant in this little intersection. The area housed a number of ground-level restaurants and cafés, but we didn’t really want to eat at these main tourist spots where the staff would heckle passersby, waving their laminated menus. We walked down Talaa Seghira and found a little sandwich shop serving all sorts of meat. While researching for this post, I found out the sandwich shop was called Sandwiches Big Mac. (There were no McD’s Big Macs served here, of course…)
>> For 12 Moroccan Dirham (about $1.5 USD), you could get a sandwich and fries. Deal!
It was very much a no-nonsense kind of sandwich place. We chose the meat to go on the sandwich (of course there was no pork), the cook grilled it on the griddle, and then the sandwich came in a demi baguette with a side fries. Sitting at one of the five small tables in the sandwich shop, we got to do some people-watching, seeing locals stopping by for a break and the continuous rush of pedestrians along Talaa Seghira.
We enjoyed this place so much we came back again our second day. The second time, however, we were getting the sandwich to go and watched the cook prep each sandwich. That was when our host Graham’s talk about sanitary standards in the medina rang a bell.
>>The cook would bring raw meat to the griddle with bare hands, and without cleaning his hands, then handled the bread. One of us ended up having a little stomach problem after our final lunch!
At the market on the west end of Talaa Kebira, there were produce sellers and butchers, but also vendors who sold ready-to-eat snacks and sweets.
We loved the tomato pancakes at this bread maker! The pancake was flour-based (I think), mixed with cooked onions and tomato sauce. It was so simple yet tasty! I wish I knew the name of the pancake/bread…
A Moroccan street food vendor selling bread by weight:
Here is a street food vendor selling all sorts of sweets.
For dinner we had the same dilemma as we did at lunch, which was to avoid the touristy restaurants at the west end of Talaa Kebira. We somehow came upon a restaurant in an alley off of Talaa Seghira. It had a homey feeling to it, with comfortable cushions lining the wall benches, and our view of the kitchen showed what seemed to be a family working together.
We ordered the fish tagine (not sure what type of fish, cooked in the traditional Moroccan ceramic vessel) and steak with fries. It was a shame actually that the food wasn’t all that great – the beef, though cut into small pieces, was tough; the fish tagine was more sauce than substance.
For our 2 days’ stay at Dar El Menia, each morning we were provided breakfast on the rooftop terrace, with bread, cheese, dates, muffins, jam, and these delicious flakey crepes called Msemmen.
>> The terrace breakfast was a wonderful way to soak in some sun and energize ourselves before a day full of sightseeing.
I think I need some of those beautifully decorated plates and embroidered napkins for my future home too!
Overall, I think we needed to do a little more research to find good restaurants to eat in the Fez Medina. On several occasions, we had asked a local where to get great Moroccan food, and the answer we would always get was, “My house!”. I suppose eating out at restaurants wasn’t really in their habit, and I think most Moroccans pride themselves in delicious home-cooked food.
The quality of food in the medina was varied, and there were not that many well-known eateries to go to. I’d suggest taking advantage of the in-house chef if your hotel or riad provided one. My perception of the locals’ eating habits was that they tended to eat at home, so unless you get invited to someone’s house for dinner, I think the in-house chef would be the best bet.
Café Clock definitely stood out as a restaurant with both a great ambiance and delicious food. But as adventurous people who always appreciate variety and enjoy trying new things, we didn’t want to keep going to the same place over and over again!
>> I’d love to hear other recommendations if you have any!
Stay tuned for the next big post featuring the different sights in Fes El Bali. (Don’t want to miss it? Subscribe to the rss feed or sign up for email updates below!)