In Lindenwood Park, a third-generation pastry chef cooks up Middle Eastern sweets and cuisine based on a century’s worth of family recipes. Jwamer Rasheed opened Afandi Sweets & Cafe on July 10, featuring baklava, kenafeh, kebabs and more.
According to Jwamer, his grandfather, Saie, pioneered the family food tradition. In 1918, he opened a bakery in Kurdistan, introducing baklava to people in northern Iraq. Each of Saie’s seven sons went on to open their own businesses, including Jwamer’s father, who established his own bakery in 1962 – eventually teaching Jwamer the tools and techniques of the trade.
With Afandi – which translates to “master” in Arabic – the Rasheeds’ skillfully prepared fare is available outside of Kurdistan for the very first time. Jwamer moved to St. Louis, where his wife is from, in 2003 after a stint living in San Diego. He trained with his family for half a year in Kurdistan to cap off 15 years of baking experience before bringing the concept stateside.
“I’m very excited to introduce our delicious sweets, baked goods and recipes from my grandfather to the St. Louis area,” Jwamer says. “We use honey for everything – no sugar is involved, and everything is organic. We make all the baked goods and food from scratch. Everything’s fresh and made in-house.”
Afandi Sweets & Cafe fills the 6,900-square-foot space previously occupied by River’s Edge Social. The space is split up into two separate rooms; one houses the dining room while the other features a long display case gleaming with desserts. A bar lined with hookahs – available with more than a dozen different flavors – sits opposite the bakery counter.
Jwamer’s scratch-made phyllo dough takes on many forms, stuffed with fillings such as roasted pistachios, walnuts, cashews, dried fruit and chocolate. The flaky, honey-soaked baklava is available by the piece as well as by the pound. Another signature item is kanafeh, made up of melted akkawi cheese topped with shredded phyllo, honey, roasted nuts and ice cream, if desired.
From the food menu, choose from entrées such as a mix grill with lamb shish kebab, shish tawook and kofta kebab. Appetizers include options such as kibbeh with tahini sauce, and to drink, you have the option of Arabic coffee or tea, Ayran yogurt drink or pressed juices.
Afandi Sweets & Cafe is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm and Friday through Saturday from 11am to 11pm.
Afandi Sweets & Cafe, 6997 Chippewa St., St. Louis, Missouri, 314.359.5144, facebook.com/Afandisweetsandcafe