The restaurant works hard for this honor. They throw parties every Monday. They serve breakfast almost all day. They even put ears on their pancakes. Given all they do--and the fact that Mom and Dad can get a decent, fresh-tasting meal--we think the eatery deserves credit as "cool, Mom."
Not only does Basha serve lots of garlicky hummus, roasted eggplant dip, tabbouleh, tangy labni (Middle Eastern cream cheese) made from house-made yogurt, falafel balls and great kabobs. It also serves up special dinners in a "tent room" where you can sit on a low couch and eat sans knives or forks, replacing them with pieces of just-baked saj bread to scoop up grub. Belly dancers even stroll in for a kind of vivacious, animated dessert, the kind you get when you put a dish of pudding on a coin-op motel bed.
Hook, Line & Sinker
The fish and chips at Hook, Line & Sinker aren't served in newspaper as they are across the pond, but these come close. The catfish (available in portions from one fillet to four or a whole fish) is served in a wax paper-lined basket with slender hush puppies and long, thin french fries. All three are spicy and so crispy and almost greaseless that the paper lining isn't really needed--except for sanitary reasons, of course. Hook, Line & Sinker may look like a bait shack, but it's got standards, and they're very high.

Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle rightly refers to its burritos as full gourmet meals wrapped in handy carrying cases. Dissect one before chowing down or study the spillage on the plate after a few bites, and you'll notice that ain't no cheap, boxed, Spanish rice hidden inside with the meats, vegetables and beans. Flavored with lime juice and tiny shreds of cilantro, the not-too-dry, not-too-sticky rice would be good as a side dish as well, though Chipotle wants to stick to serving only burritos, tacos and chips with salsa.

AllGood Cafe
Nick Rallo
BLTs and grilled-cheese sandwiches are about neck and neck in the "hard to screw up" category, so it probably comes as no surprise that Jena's All Good Cafe does both well. But, as they say, God is in the details. While we'd never equate black peppered bacon, red leaf lettuce and Roma tomatoes with holiness, those ingredients make Jena's BLT as memorable as most other, more complicated sandwiches. And they're served with a pickle and cole slaw, to boot.

In the right hands, a chickpea can be a beautiful thing. In the wrong ones (say, most companies that mash 'em up, toss in some garlic and oil and sell them in tubs at grocery stores), they can be a sticky, bland mess akin to a slightly flavored wallpaper paste. Ali Baba adds just the right amount of garlic, tahini and olive oil, mixes until smooth and almost creamy and serves it in the middle of a plate full of hot, chewy triangles of nan. It's tasty enough for an entire meal without overwhelming the palate, but don't stop there. The other Syrian and Middle Eastern dishes are just as good.

Unlike the sandwiches at the chain store down the street, EuroTex's Little Italy isn't a handful of room-temperature vegetables precariously nestled within bread and drowned in salad dressing. In fact, it doesn't include a wide range of veggies--just tomato, onion and bell pepper--served with warm feta and sliced cheeses between two pieces of grilled, crispy-edged panini bread. How the downtown cafe manages to keep the crumbly feta tucked inside there is a mystery to us. Talk about real sandwich artists.
There are two items noticeably missing from Tex-Mex joint Buster's Burritos: tacky souvenirs from across the border and lumpy, pastelike refried beans. Instead, the setting is minimal, but not sterile or institutional, and the giant burritos, tacos and chimichangas are served with whole black beans sprinkled with a fetalike cheese (they call it a Mexican version of Parmesan) and accompanied by a dollop of pico de gallo. Just like everything at Buster's, the beans are a nice diversion from standard fare.
So what the heck is a lavosh sandwich? Basically, it's a wrap. Lavosh is the Middle Eastern name for the tortilla-like flatbread that Expressions smears with herb cream cheese, fills with fresh vegetables and a pick of meats (bacon, turkey, roast beef or ham) and then folds into a neat packet. It's served with either pasta salad or a bag of chips, which makes for a filling, healthy and economical lunch. If KFC can have wraps, why not the sunny little bakery and deli?
Aside from a quaint, comfortable setting and kind service, Mia's is home to some outstanding homemade flour tortillas. It's one thing to eat good Mexican food. It's another to eat good Mexican food with good tortillas. Ah, gluttony. From the quesadillas to the enchiladas, anything made with the tortillas is outstanding--and hard to resist. Enjoy, eat like a Jenny Craig dropout, then unbuckle that belt button and pray for a paramedic to make a surprise, and overdue, appearance.

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