Marrakesh Mediterranean Market opened in Ponce City Market late last month, serving a fast-casual menu that translates Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes into what owners Dikla Birnbaum and Udi Hershkovitz call “simple, healthy food made with love.”
Hershkovitz, who has been involved in several Atlanta restaurants as an owner and operator, thinks this concept is particularly well suited to the eclectic food hall at Ponce City Market.
“Marrakesh is the name we chose because the city is known for its markets where people go to shop for food and ingredients,” Hershkovitz said. “Of course, there’s also the famous song, ‘Marrakesh Express,’ which people recognize.
“We decided to bring our food to this new trend of the food hall. It caters to the younger generation. And I believe it’s just the beginning of this so-called movement. Everything we do here is made fresh daily, and it’s all based on recipes that were handed down going back to North African and Middle Eastern cuisine.”
Birnbaum, who also owns the kosher fast-casual Pita Grille on Wieuca Road, was born and raised in Israel. But many of her culinary influences come from her family’s Moroccan roots.
“It’s the Israeli Sephardic kitchen, which is all healthy food, and everything is cooked on the spot,” Birnbaum said. “If you go to any Moroccan grandma’s house in Israel, the first thing she’ll do is feed you, and the plates are all full with color and spice.”
Birnbaum’s menu ranges from puff pastry burekas and mezze, such as Moroccan carrot salad, eggplant and Mediterranean pickles, to plates and pita or laffa wraps with falafel, shawarma, kebabs, or merguez sausage.
“All the mezze is very Moroccan,” Birnbaum said. “We have a drink called Green Goodness that’s like lemonade with mint. Mint is very common in Moroccan cuisine in many different dishes and drinks because it’s very good for digestion after you eat lamb and other meat.
“We have a couscous salad that I make with mint and dried fruit and nuts. Like many Moroccan dishes, it’s salty and sweet together. One of my grandmother’s recipes we call Rice with Benefits because it has so many health benefits. It’s seasoned cooked rice mixed with sauteed onions, nuts and dried fruit.”
Ultimately, Birnbaum sees the cooking at Marrakesh in terms of conveying the culture and traditions of her family and native country.
“It’s not a chef restaurant,” she said. “It’s not complicated food. It’s food you would make at home.”