In honor of our president's ambitious trip to the Middle East this week
To be perfectly honest, the reason I didn't just talk about Ali Baba--the first one I went to--was because the falafel was downright abominable. Hard, crunchy, with only a hint of soft chickpeas inside, it practically shattered when I tried to cut it open...
Now, you may debate my expertise, but when I want falafel, I don't want a jawbreaker. I want a nice, hot, spicy, crunchy-on-the-outside-but-deliciously-tender-within piece of lightly fried dough. Fadi's was better by comparison, although it too left me longing for that of the Upper West Side's Hummus Place
Ali Baba: 1
The prize here must go to Fadi's, which has a whole section of salads and another of roasted vegetables ranging from a slightly over-oiled but delightfully caramelized tray of roasted eggplant to sautéed squash, rice with mixed veggies, coriander potatoes and lots of heaping salad trays. Ali Baba's selection is more typical: hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli, falafel, fattoush. More on that to follow...
Ali Baba: 2
Ambience and Service
By nature, they're different: Ali Baba is a sit-down place; Fadi's is cafeteria style. Still, not all cafeteria-style places make you feel like you're in a cafeteria. Fadi's is good, cheap and quick, but the whole experience is pretty impersonal. Ali Baba, on the other hand, is as cozy and unassuming, as comfortable as...bah. New York's the closest I've been to Israel.
Ali Baba: 4
Now present at every grocery store in hundreds of different incarnations, hummus really merits its own article.
Ali Baba: 5
Both restaurants serve a tabouli that's parsley-heavy, with just a sprinkling of nutty bulgur wheat and diced tomatoes, but Ali Baba's had fresher parsley and a bolder, spicier lemony taste, while Fadi's was good but unremarkable.
Ali Baba: 4
So, apparently, the fattoush you order at either of these restaurants isn't actually fattoush as I understand it (
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Ali Baba: 4
The Bottom Line
The prices are about the same, so Fadi's is best for fast, low-maintenance, quick eating. Best choice: Keep it simple with a plate of hummus and a side order of four pieces of falafel. Two fluffy, puffed pitas come free with orders over $10. Ali Baba is that neighborhood joint for slow Sundays in the summer. You can sit outside, leisurely munch your appetizers, sip your water with lemon and watch the burbling flow of...traffic on Abrams. Still, there's a hint of idyll there.
3001 Knox St. #110
1901 Abrams Rd.