Bar Omar, a new addition to Williamsburg’s bubbling culinary landscape, is a French-Algerian restaurant that forgoes the stereotypical Moroccan-style lamps and ornamental plates in favor of what co-owner Yasmina Guerda says is a “Brooklyn aesthetic”: natural wood paneling, a well-stocked, speakeasy-type bar, and a window-paneled front looking out onto Grand Street.
The week-old restaurant, in the former home of Cadaques, functions as a sort of homage to Yasmina’s father, who owns a well-known Algerian restaurant, Chez Omar, back home. “My dad is Algerian and he immigrated to France when the Independence War was happening, and he opened one of the first North African restaurants in Paris,” she told us.After dealing with initial prejudice, her father “won over the hearts of the Parisians with couscous and roast lamb,” as Yasmina put it. “Now, 40 years later, it’s one of the most renowned restaurants in Paris.” Indeed, the onetime celeb spot still makes lists of the city’s best cheap restaurants.
Yasmina and her husband Aaron, who both met at Columbia Journalism School, decided to take a leap and introduce her great grandmother’s recipes to Brooklyn after Aaron ate at Chez Omar and was immediately smitten.
The menu offers classic northern African dishes like tagine, a type of stew cooked in an earthenware pot, or chicken fried in brik dough (sort of like phyllo dough). But couscous is the dish that’s caused people to line up out the door in Paris. “We serve our couscous family-style,” instead of in individual portions, Yasmina explained.
Bar Omar also specializes in classic cocktails with punny names. “Aaron is all about the puns,” she said with a laugh. The Omartini is a gin-based martini with orange notes and Aperol; the Margarissa is a play on harissa, a popular North African and Middle Eastern chili paste.
Yasmina’s father flew all the way from France to attend the opening of the restaurant last week. “My father is very happy and honored. These are his grandmother’s recipes, and they made it to Brooklyn.”
Bar Omar, 188 Grand St., between Bedford and Driggs Aves., 718-388-0411