For the latest in Middle Eastern cuisine and fancy-looking Arabic fonts, you canít go wrong with Albany Parkís Zahrat al Madaa'en (translation: no clue), a joint with diner simplicity and easy-to-handle prices. Staff members look like they could be friendly chaps behind the counter at a greasy dive, and pitas are served wrapped up like a hamburger inside little plastic trays. Itís quick, too; the waiter during this reviewer's visit said the meals would be out in five minutes. It was actually four, but who's counting?
For an efficient use of your money, Zahrat's falafel sandwiches are the perfect meal, packed full of chick pea goodness for only $2.99. Prices arenít much steeper for the other sandwiches Ė shish kabab and chicken shawarma are only $4.49. But those are the hot dog and hamburger of Middle Eastern cuisine, and Zahrat has plenty of uncommon appetizers to soothe the adventurous type, stuff like shakshuka (diced tomatoes and onions sautťed with eggs), and musabaha (chick peas with tahini sauce). The place seems to save its nicest glassware for a piping hot cup of Arabian tea, a classy touch to go with some sloppy, leaky wrap.
Like many ethnic restaurants, Zahrat comes with the quirky and cultural distinctions that distinguish the experience from a typical fast food joint. Though modest, the restaurant has some pretty boss speakers to respectfully blast some Middle Eastern jams, stuff that makes you want to bellydance the night away. And cans of pop served with straws in them? Thatís just awesome, frankly. I'm not sure why I havenít enjoyed straw-in-a-can action since middle school.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Andy Seifert