Best Lesson on the Middle East (2002)
Ali Baba Café
Opened in 1990 by two brothers from Syria, Ali Baba has been gathering continuous good reviews for its rice, tabbouleh, hummus, falafel, dolmas and gyros. Meat lovers with $10 to spare can't go wrong with the Mashwi shish, a plate of marinated beef or lamb grilled with onions, mushrooms and tomatoes, all seasoned with saffron and thyme. It comes with a hefty portion of Ali Baba's inimitable rice. It's worth the visit just because of the hummus, which, unlike the grayish mystery goop sold at some stores, actually melds the chickpeas into something that doesn't just taste, well, like mashed chickpeas. Dips are creamy and have a kick. Portions are generous. In all, the tour through the region is far more rewarding than any wonk's policy speech on the area's rising tensions or whatnot. Just relax, fight through the big crowds and eat till you gain a deeper understanding of the world's hot spot.