Right off of El Cajon Boulevard, on Alabama Street lies Mama's.
Mama's serves up some very tasty food from this very humble store front. As you enter and stare up at the menu, you'll find the area very cramped, only two to three individuals can stand in this area at a time. So you place your order and wait either in the "dining area" or outside. The glass case that is the front counter displays the various pastries available, like baklava and other goodies. The dining area is one of a kind. You've heard of "white-wash", well this is "green wash". Looks like a bunch of friends got together and had a (more than a) few beers and went crazy with the paint brushes. It's basically a patio with dividers and canvas tarps attached to create "walls".
The main reason that Mama's holds a position on our "rotation" is the Garlic Chicken Wrap($4.99). The flatbread of the wrap is made fresh. When you order the dough is rolled and flattened to order, and placed on the "sajj" which is the bullet shaped oven-grill thing-a-majig, which cooks the bread and adds some nice crusty pieces. Then a generous amount of chicken breast, lettuce, pickles, parsley, and most importantly fresh garlic paste is added. Delici-yoso!!!! Here's a look inside. You can order an extra side of garlic paste for 50 cents.
We also ordered the Falafel Plate ($7.49). These falafel are made from both chickpeas and fava beans, and have a nice bit of spice. They are crunchy on the outside, somewhat grainy and gritty on the inside, with a nice nutty, savory flavor. If you like texture, you'll love a good, non-greasy falafel like this one.
The plate comes with 6 good size falafel, hummus, a green salad, pita bread and tahini. The dressing for the salad is nice and tangy with lot's herbs and very refreshing. Pita and hummus are done well. We usually don't use the tahini, though creamy, is very weak. Here's what my "perfect bite" of falafel looks like:
The falafel is nice and crunchy, slightly spicy, the hummus adds the nutty creamy flavor, and the pita, is well, starch, and everyone knows the bite ain't complete without starch.
On this trip we also ordered the Manakeesh Ultimate($3.99), which is a flatbread with a sumac, thyme, oregano, and olive oil spread, sesame seeds, tomatoes, olives, mint, and lebni, which I was told is like a yogurt-cream cheese:
This was a bit too sour, with too much going on. I'll stay with the Manakeesh Plus ($3.25) next time. Which is the sandwich minus the lebni; it has much more of a balanced taste.
If you're thinking this was alot of food, you're right, it was, though the Missus has been known to "knock-off" two Garlic Chicken Wraps in a single meal. We had enough food for dinner.
Some notes; only street parking is available, with limited seating and space. The service has always been efficient and nice. If you like people watching, this is an interesting place. On any given day you'll see Native Lebanese along with all the alternative lifestyles represented among the clientel. Hey Mama is an equal opportunity restaurant! And it's darn good!
Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli
4237 Alabama St.
San Diego, CA 92104