New bakery promises to bring taste of the Middle East to Lexington

A new bakery offering Middle Eastern treats is opening in Lexington.

Habibis Sweets is scheduled to have a soft opening today. At 2417 Nicholasville Road, the bakery will offer baklava and other pastries as well as ice cream, coffee and some Western-style cakes and cupcakes, said Faten Froukh.

After Ramadan ends in June, she said, the bakery will plan a grand opening. Habibis will be open from 11 a.m. to about 9 p.m. daily.

One of the specialties will be kunafa, a traditional Palestinian dessert made with cheese.

Froukh's brother, Abdallah, has been working as a chef at Paisano's next door and will be Habibis pastry chef. He went to Nablus to learn from locals how to make the popular treat.

"It’s basically a finely ground dough with cheese on top, cooked and flipped and drenched in simple syrup and pistachios. The cheese is really melty and sweet, the perfect mixture of savory and sweet and a staple sweet in the Middle East," Faten Froukh said. "He brought it back here and made it and I could not believe I was sitting in Lexington. Everything he makes is just like home."

Froukh's family of seven immigrated from Ramallah in the West Bank to Lexington in 2007. Several family members will work in the bakery, she said.

When they arrived in Lexington, familiar foods were hard to find.

"You’d have to drive to northern Ohio or Illinois, outside of Chicago, to go to a restaurant like this, a place with the type of desserts we’ll be providing," she said.

But they found a welcome in the local Middle Eastern community, she said.

"It feels great to bring a piece of our original home in Palestine to our new home here in Lexington," she said, adding that the bakery — the name means "my loves" — hopes to inspire people to "'taste the world' and fall in love with something they’ve never seen before."