We flew in on a Saturday and just wanted a simple inexpensive meal. The cool weather and light rain made soup inviting. So after taking the wrong freeway exit and driving around a bit, we arrived at Pho Oregon:
In a previous life, it had probably been a large Chinese restaurant and still had a lot of space and tables:
Tina suggested that we start with Tau hu ky:
It was really good. Crunchy fried tofu skin, mild dipping sauce, and seafoody interior:
And we both liked our soups. I had Pho Dac Biet:
The broth was mildly beefy, slightly sweet, and pleasant. But not great. The noodles, however, were plentiful and not all clumped up, and the meats were quite good:
The rare steak was flavorful, the fatty brisket and flank fall apart tender and rich, the soft chewy tendon abundant, and the meatballs nicely seasoned and not rubbery. Just a tiny amount of tripe, but I couldn't complain.
Tina is fond of Hu Tieu Dac Biet, here served with a pleasant light and porky broth and plenty of perfect noodles:
While the shrimp were slightly overcooked, the fish balls were very tasty. I don't recall the pork liver (Tina wolfed it down), but the sliced pork was chewy and dry.
What made both of the soups even better were the abundant herbs and vegetables: Look at all of the sawtooth and cilantro. Jalapeño and basil hiding somewhere on the plate but not in the picture.
So a week later, on another rainy evening, we returned. First, Banh Xeo – which certainly looked good flanked by all those herbs:
Opened up, however, not as impressive:
Yeh, plenty of bean sprouts, but few shrimp and they were sliced in half lengthwise. The two half slices of pork chewy and flavorless. Not great.
Tina decided to play safe and have the Pho Dac Biet. It was as good as previously. I decided to test the kitchen by ordering Bun Mam:
The bowl looked pretty good, but it lacked the strong pungent fragrance of good Bun Mam. I could imagine Kirk taking one whiff, looking sad, and shaking his head. The broth tasted mostly of fish sauce, somewhat thin and slightly acrid, and there was no shrimp paste among the condiments to funkify it.
On the positive side, look at the abundant rau thom; that's a huge portion of herbs and vegetables, all fresh and tasty:
And the soup was packed with good noodles, vegetables, and proteins. Everything, except for the pork, was really first rate. The shrimp were not overcooked, the catfish had no hint of muddiness and tasted especially fresh, and the eggplant couldn't have been better. All stirred together, the Bun Mam looked like this:
Many years ago, a freeway ran along the western bank of the Willamette River in Portland. Unbelievably, they tore down that freeway and replaced it with a long green park that stretches for over a mile, separating and uniting downtown Portland and the river:
Called the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park to honor the visionary environmentalist who helped convert the Willamette from polluted sewer into the beautiful river that it is today (picture looking upstream from Willamette Falls):
McCall Park is a great place for sitting on benches, walking around,
or racing Segways:
Speaking of segues, at the north end of the park, adjacent to the Burnside Bridge,
on Saturdays (and Sundays too) for most of the year, you can find the Saturday Market:
and all sorts of handcrafts and art. For some reason or another I didn't photograph any of the beautiful and interesting artworks, but I did take some pictures of a few locally made T-shirts. Some of the shirts have typical funny slogans,
others are unique to Portland,
and some are perfect for a foodblog:
All this looking around and walking made us hungry, so we went to the food court area:
Numerous choices of all kinds of cuisines, but the Beirut Catering booth seemed to be doing a good business, and Tina and I were in the mood:
I ordered a shawarma and Tina the falafel sandwich. The pita bread for each of the sandwiches was warmed separately on a flat top:
The shawarma showed up first:
It was really good. The lamb had some gamy flavor, a bit of char, and just enough tenderness.
As we were tasting it, the man (it was a one-man show) scooped out two greenish balls of chickpea mush, and dropped them into bubbling hot oil:
When the falafel sandwich showed up, it looked magnificent:
And it tasted great. The exterior was dark and crunchy, the interior nicely balanced between smooth and coarse. The pita, falafel, tahini, tabouli, and veggies made memorable food music together. Outstanding!
We found a table nearby, sat down, had some conversations with other folks (people still talk to strangers in Portland), and watched the procession of beautiful well-trained dogs that strolled through and alongside the market. It was like a dog show. Of course, Tina and I forgot to take any pictures of the dogs. So, to make up for that, here is a picture of a local out walking his goat:
My first experience of Ethiopian food took place well over 30 years ago in Portland at Jarra’s, which I believe was the first Ethiopian restaurant in the area. All I remember was a warm and gracious owner/manager/waiter who served us a fall apart tender and fiery hot lamb shank. OMG good.
Anyway, Tina and I were in the mood for Ethiopian, and our friend Joanie told us that her family has been enjoying the Queen of Sheba for years. As you can see, the restaurant is in the fuzzy part of Portland:
The menu offered a page of vegetarian choices,
and a page of meat options:
I really wish that we had been able to visit this restaurant several times and try some entrées that I don't recall seeing in San Diego Ethiopian restaurants, like fish stew, chickpea cracker stew, lentils and okra, etc.
Especially interesting to us were the numerous mushroom options, so we ordered chicken and mushrooms in the milder alicha sauce and a combination of vegetarian sides.
As expected, the meal arrived covering a large thin injera pancake, which had a pleasant touch of sour tang.
We loved the chicken and mushrooms; a nice balance of textures, and the sauce was complex and interesting, giving the mushrooms, which soaked it up, an extra boost of flavor:
The yellow split peas were earthy and creamy:
The mustard greens, perfectly stewed, had a slight vegetal bitterness:
The golden brown shiro was a little soupy, but otherwise smooth and tasty.
The rather ordinary looking combination vegetables were well seasoned and presented a combination of textures and colors:
And the ordinary lettuce salad was fresh and lightly dressed
We left the Queen of Sheba full and happy, wishing we could return.
So I guess that's just one more reason why Tina and I have to get back to Oregon again (and again?).
Mister Falafel, home of some of the sweetest, friendliest, nicest folks I know of.
It had been a while since I last visited and for some reason I was craving some falafel. I was starving so I got a falafel plate, which is a good amount of food for $8.99.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the falafel here were that they weren't dry and gritty. The exterior was crisp and crunchy and the exterior moist and fluffy. It wasn't quite as good this time around as it seemed over fried. The outside of the falafel were too hard and the interior was dry. The flavors are still nice and balanced though and those pickles perked things up. The baba ghanoush was smooth and smoky and quite delicious with the pita.
The tahini as always was mild and creamy. No garlic paste this time around since I had meetings later that day.....bummer.
Not quite a fail, but not satisfying either......I'm hoping the next time, things will be as I recalled. I know the couple working here will still be gracious and friendly as always.
Mister Falafel 4461 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
It's funny what a u-turn can do for you. Back in 2003, we turned into Diane Street to make a "semi u-turn" when we first saw Ba Ren. This past November, I was making a u-turn on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard when I spotted a sign I hadn't seen before.
Man, this was a new one for me! A few days later I dropped by during lunch to investigate. The gentleman, whose name if I could ever get it right is Nabih was very friendly, mellow, and had a great sense of humor as well.
The space was nice and wide open, nothing fancy mind you, but very clean. Loved the wood fired oven and when I saw embers rising from the grill, Nabih told me, "it's the mesquite we use for grilling." Well ok, sign me up!
The lunch was a collection of the usual suspects kafta, shawarma, even a burger. I really liked the Combo Sandwich ($8.50), which gave you one each of a Beef Shawarma, Falafel, and Chicken Shawarma. It was a neat plate which looked like mini tacos.
The beef was decent, mild for my taste, but it had a nice texture. The falafel much too hard and gritty; I prefer a crisp exterior with a more cream interior. The one surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the chicken....something about the combination of flavors; the perfectly flavored pickles and that excellent garlic paste, with the nicely grilled chicken, enrobed in a house made warm pita that did it for me. This was probably the best garlic paste I've had in San Diego. Yes, better than Alforon. It was creamy, with just the mildest bite.
The salad was fresh and crisp.
So, it was a good lunch. And that would have been that; until I had a look at the rest of the menu. Oh my, there was so much more to this place it seemed. And it also had something I really hadn't seen on a menu in years......Kibbeh Nayyeh - Kibbeh Nayee ($11) on the menu. Think of it as a Lebanese beef tartare if you will. It is basically minced raw beef combined with bulgur and seasoned with various spices. The Missus had to work, so I decided to drop by and check this out.
Nabih mentioned in his genial and friendly way that it take about 20 minutes to prepare this as he was the only one who makes the dish and it has to be made fresh and eaten quickly. Hey, I was in no rush. A bottle of Almaza Beer, brewed by Brasserie Almaza; Beirut, Lebanon was suggested. Of course I was going to try that.
Some pita, hummus, and garlic paste (yes!) was also provided. I enjoyed the hummus as well; it's very, and has just the right amount of tahini for my taste. Most places just put either too much, or not enough of the stuff.
The garlic paste was quite good. It arrived looking very light and whipped. You'll notice if you are able to restrain yourself from eating the whole thing that it starts to ever so slightly change in texture as time goes by. I was told that only four ingedients are used in this; oil, garlic, salt, and just a touch of lemon juice. Nabih also shared some other parts of the process, which I think I'll let him tell you if you visit.
The Kibbeh Nayyeh truly delivered, it's refreshing, love the flavors of the spices, cinnamon, and other flavors come through quite well. It's refreshing, yet rich, and the bulgur makes this quite filling. I really had to work to finish it off. Nabih had made it a bit spicy for me which was nice; the crunch and pungency of the onions really did the trick, and the fruity touch of the olive oil brought it all together. The Missus and I actually had this a few weeks later and we could barely finish.
Somehow, I just knew I could trust Nabih with making me a raw beef dish. There's something about his character that justs seems so solid and trustworthy. So the following week I brought the Missus, and over time we've found the rotation of dishes we enjoy. You might be surprised; not a kabob in sight. Personally, we love snacking on the mezza and salads. Here are our favorites.
This wonderfully complex combination of red bell pepper, walnut, pomegranite sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, cayenne....thickened with bread just hits the spot.
It has that combination of nutty-sweet-spicy-tangy flavors I just love.
The Shaankleesh, made from the well known mold ripened cheese, mixed with tomato, onion, zaatar, and olive oil, makes for the utlimate bread food. It is savory, funky (in a good way), with the wonderful flavor of a mildly ripe cheese.
Two items you'll know if you've had Lebanese food in San Diego, but nicely prepared as mezza.
These little sausages are very moist, the spices combined with the rather bracing lemon juice nad pungent black pepper will keep you interested.
The Soujouk was interesting:
Nabih suggested a different preparation form what was on the menu. Rather than cooked with eggs; he told us we'd enjoy it with a nice tomato sauce.
The nicely spiced dry sausage, did really well with the acid and tanginess of the light tomato sauce. This is the Missus's current favorite dish. I like it with an Almaza beer....it's one of those dishes that was just made for beer.
And of course there's the garlic paste and hummus.
And yes, we've tried other dishes on the menu......
The wings are pretty good.....you'll have to love garlic and lemon juice to enjoy this one.
Here's a dish Nabih said you'll either take to, or immediately hate. The Batata Hama - a bit too much lemon in this one for us.
The quail was tender, but man, that pomengranite saice almost blew me out of my socks!
You'll notice...not kabob in sight...I guess we're enjoying the mezza so much that we haven't made it that far yet. And where's all those other standards? Ditto......I guess straying away from the usual suspects paid off for us. And there's also sfiha on the menu, which is sort of like the Turkish Lahmacun and Manakish....though the Missus isn't doing bread right now.
Nabih is one of the nicest fellows around. He remembers his customers and always has time for a conversation....he also has a sly sense of humor as well. His wife, I believe her name is Lynn is so very nice as well. They seem to treat their regulars like family. We've been dropping by almost every week.
The last quarter of 2014 has been good to us, we've found two places we enjoy having our "date night" at; Yakitori Taisho and La Miche.
While lunch here is good, it's the variety and flavors available at dinner, not to mention the relaxed and friendly staff, that makes this place something special for us
La Miche Kabobgee 9350 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92123 Hours: Mon - Fri 11am - 9pm Saturday 3pm - 9pm Sunday - Closed
Thank you for reading mmm-yoso!!! Our food blog shares meals enjoyed so that you too may somehow enjoy. Usually Kirk is writing, but he is otherwise occupied with researching and all that is part of researching. Ed(from Yuma) is otherwise occupied with his job as well as research. Cathy is preoccupied with so many things, but has also managed to take some photos of her meals and today is the one sharing.
Located on El Cajon Boulevard about two blocks West of College Avenue on the South side of the street, the inset row of building with the strange parking in front at an angle and then parallel to the sidewalk as well as on the street in front, Alforon has not changed in the past three or so years.
Nor has the bright interior, with the fancy oven that bakes goodness when you order, just behind the coved opening.
The shelf area has added condiments to the plasticware for people picking up orders to go.
The menu has stayed pretty much the same, with some price increases.
On this visit, The Mister and I ordered a small tabbouleh salad ($5.95). Freshly chopped parsley, tomato and onion mixed with olive oil and lemon and all mixed with bulghur, this is always refreshing and enough to share.
The freshly baked flatbread, topped with Zaatar (a spice mix of sumac, sesame and wild thyme) and cheese ($4.95) is something we are always happy eating. The delicate fresh slightly crisp bread topped with this mix is salty-savory and comforting.
Chicken tawook ($6.95) is something I have cravings for. You can see the abundance of shredded chicken topped with garlic paste and pickle bits and the flavors blend so well.
Here's a little cross section view; you can see how thin the fresh baked crust is.
Always fresh and always good. Comforting quality.
I hope everyone is having a great weekend!
Alforon 5965 El Cajon Blvd San Diego 92115 (619) 269-9904 Website
"Way on the other side of the Hudson Deep in the bosom of suburbia......" What that Dean Friedman song has to do with this post, I dunno......but for some corny reason I love the song.
There's something bright and sunny about it.....
Sort of like the bright and sunny interior of this little shop in the strip mall on the corner of Genesee and Clairemont Mesa, hidden behind the gas station and Panda Country.
I recall this being a Mexican Bakery.....how long ago Mister Falafel took residence here I've no clue. This seems to be a family operation, an older couple and a younger gentleman run the shop....always gracious, always letting me know "it will be just a while for your food, we make it to order."
Since this place is called Mister Falafel, I just had to try the namesake of the shop, right? The menu is compact with salads, "sandwiches" (pita based of course), salads, plates, sidea, and smaller portions called "munchies". I ordered a Falafel Munchie ($3.50)
This was nice, I enjoyed it as a good change of pace from the usual gritty falafel. This version is smooth with a less pronounced parsley flavor. I was told that they use favas as well as garbanzo beans for their falafel. The tahini is more like mayo and doesn't have a real strong flavor.
You can have one side with your order andI chose the Hummus, which was fairly garlicky.
It came with seasoned fried pita chips which went nicely with the dish.
I had ordered the Beef Schwarma Sandwich, which turned out to be pretty large. I thought it was nicely priced at $6.50. As much as I enjoyed the sides, I really didn't care much for this. The meat was very tough, there was too much pita and tahini, you really couldn't taste much. It was pretty hefty though.
Two out of three ain't bad, so I returned a couple of days later. This time I ordered a falafel sandwich and some fries. I saw garlic paste, one of my favorite things on the menu....this leads me to believe the folks who own this little shop are Lebanese.
This was nice and full of garlic flavor, perhaps not as smooth and balanced (I know that sounds wrong when referring to garlic paste) as Alforon's, but much better than what Mama's makes.
Soon enough the sandwich and fried arrived. The fries were typical.
Perhaps I should have learned from my schwarma sandwich. This was just too much stuff and you really couldn't enjoy the rather mild flavored falafel. It was quite filling....you could say I was "fala-full" after eating this.
I think I'll stick with the "munchies" and a couple of sides the next time I visit.
And there will be a next time. The folks running this place couldn't be nicer and the prices are quite reasonable. That's enough to get me to come back.
Mister Falafel 4461 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117 Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 1100am - 800pm
Here's a couple I haven't done in quite a while....I mean quite a while.
Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli:
Man, I did a post on Mama's waaaay, waaaay back in August 2005! That would be over seven years ago! I have been back quite a few times since, but really just never thought about doing another post. Of course, in recent years, places like Alforon have over-shadowed Mama's. I was trying to think of the last time I visited.....well, it was before the wall was painted red.
I also think the main thing I get at Mama's, the Garlic Chicken Wrap was still under six bucks....it's now $6.39, which in the current scheme of things is not out of line.
And though I find the wrap a little too thick and "bready" nowadays, when you get one that came fresh off the "sajj" hot with crisp bits, it's still quite good. I'm finding the chicken, premade, wrapped in foil, and kept in a warming drawer a bit dry and somewhat scarcer too. Still, I love the garlic paste and for some reason the tangy hot sauce, which seems more Mexican than anything else. The woman who puts these together has been there for it seems like forever and has always been nice to me.
In the end Mama's is still "good grub" to me. Plus, luck was my side on this day; I scored parking close by......
Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli 4237 Alabama St. San Diego, CA 92104
El Borrego for Breakfast:
Here's another one that I last posted on back in May of 2006. I'd been going to El Borrego once in a while since then, usually for something simple like just consomme, tortillas, and coffee for breakfast......who wants a post and photos on that? But our recent revisit to Ranas had me craving Huitlacoche....and just for you CAB, I'll call it "corn smut" one more time. Anyway, El Borrego has Huitlacoche and even Flor de Calabaza quesadillas on the menu.
So I placed my order, two quesadillas ($2.50 each) and some Mexican Coffee...smooth, just lightly sugared, with hints of cinnamon. Nice way to start the day....
Eventually, my quesadillas made their way to my table.....with the black smudges of the huitlacoche strangely reminding of something, I'm not sure why.
The fillings were a bit less than Ranas, the huitlacoche here was not as well flavored, but still with that mushroom flavor with a mildly sweet finish. Even though the Flor de Calabaza (squash blossom) had less filling, it was less dry and had a bit more cheese and flavor than the version at Ranas.
Overall, a nice breakfast, just about everything on the menu is a la carte, so if you're not careful, things can add up pretty quickly. Still the nice woman working here, Rodnia, is friendly...oh and that salsa rojo is pretty spicy too.
El Borrego Restaurant 4280 El Cajon Boulevard San Diego, CA 92115
Just a couple of revisits for a slow moving Sunday......
Man, during my last couple of visits, business sure was slammin'. It's good to see this little mom-and-pop joint. On this visit, I just had a Chicken Tawook ($5.75), which arrived looking just plain delish.
And some garlic paste and pickles to go of course!
Alforon 5965 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
My previous posts on Alforon can be found here and here.
A friend and I dropped by Spicy House for lunch recently.
We had the Pork Intestines with Preserved Vegetable. This was pretty good.
Except the slices of preserved vegetable were really cut too large. Decent flavoring, the intestines had a nice musty-funky flavor without going over the top.
We also had the Crispy Fried Eel with Peppers.
Unfortunately, this dish was a mere shadow of what I had before. Too salty, soggy, and very greasy. It seems that Spicy House has hit a plateau.
Spicy House 3860 Convoy Street #105 San Diego, CA 92111
My previous posts on Spicy House can be found here and here.
Sultan Kebab and Baklava:
I guess I've posted enough on Sultan already. But this is the Missus's latest favorite. We've been eating here quite often recently. So I'll just go with photos.
Sultan Kebab & Baklava 131 Jamacha Road El Cajon, CA 92019
Pho Hiep and Grill - Linda Vista:
We never really had fog where I grew up, so it still has some fascination to me. On a recent foggy morning.....
I'm not sure when spring is going to start this year....... it's been pretty chilly. So, a bowl of Pho just seemed to be the perfect thing. I headed over to Pho Hiep and Grill for a bowl.
Maybe it was too early in the morning? The broth on this day was lighter than any I've had here before. The flavors just seemed diluted. The meat were fine, but I left somewhat unsatisfied......
Pho Hiep & Grill 6947 Linda Vista Road San Diego, CA 92111
When the folks in our monthly "eating club" were polled as to where our next meal should be.... it was unanimous, Alforon was the only choice. so on a recent weekend night, we arrived at Alforon, looking to take on the menu.
Since my first post, I've been here a couple of times, and have grown to enjoy the warm colors and textures of the small dining area.
We started with some Labni (comes with pickles and bread - $4.25):
The labni was very smooth, with a texture like a thick creme fraiche, with hints of lemon, this was very nice. And this time I didn't forget to take a photo of the pickles, which I think are the best in San Diego.
We were all fascinated with the green item in the pickles.... it had the texture of artichoke. George one of the owners told us it was Snake Cucumber, commonly known as Armenian Cucumber in the US. It is actually a melon with cucumber like characteristics. The pickles at Alforon have a wonderful fresh briney flavor to them, and were one of the favorites during this dinner.
I also requested a small bowl of garlic paste.
I've really taken to this creamy and light paste, with a decent, but not overbearing garlic flavor. It is closer to an aioli then a garlic paste, and recently I've been buying 8 ounce containers to go. It would probably make cardboard delicious. Even though George told us that we should only use the garlic paste for chicken, he appreciated our enthusiasm for it...... his son did tell us that he puts on everything, so I guess we were in good company. Samia and George, the owners have such an honest enthusiasm and concern for their customers that is quite refreshing. George even told us the ingredients for his garlic paste (which is nothing like my two recipes), of course he told us the secret is in how he prepares it, not the ingredients. And nope there is no potato or mayonnaise in the recipe. I won't share the ingredients with you.... I want you to try the garlic paste, and make your own mind up.... and ask George, he'll readily share the ingredients with you.
For the meal proper, we started with Zaatar Extra ($3.25):
It is the organic imported Zaatar (Wild Thyme), that is rightfully the star of this. I really didn't think we even needed the "extra" (tomato, olive, and mint), as there was more than enough flavor to go around.
The Spinach and Cheese Flat Bread ($3.75):
Really paled in flavor after having the Zaatar..... though the Missus loves the Spinach only flat bread.
The Soujouk ($5.75) was up next:
I mentioned this in my previous post, and it was indeed just as good this time around. We preferred this to the Lahm Bajeen with Spicy Peppers ($3.45):
A classic Lebanese minced meat flat bread, this wasn't very spicy, and while quite good, it really didn't have the depth of flavor of the Soujook.
The most suprising item of the night was the Chicken Tawook ($5.75):
Looking like a simple white meat chicken topped flat bread, the chicken had been simply marinated and was very tasty. Of course being topped with the wonderful pickles and garlic paste (we of course added even more), this was very good. And to be perfectly honest, this was lighter, more refined, and had better prepared ingredients than what is served at Mama's. About this time George came around and told us that he prepares four different kinds of dough. And that the meat flat breads used a lighter dough, creating a thinner crust than the non-meat flat breads.
About then our Falafel arrived (Six Falafel, Tahini, and Pickles - $6.75):
If you like light and almost creamy Falafel, you'll love this. For me, I like mine a bit more "gritty" and substantial. FOY Jenne thought these were heavenly topped with...... you guessed it; the garlic paste, which made George laugh and shake his head. Of course, right then the young man chimed in, "yes, that's exactly how I like it".
Right then George walked away and came back with some sesame bread that he wanted us to taste with some Zataar sprinkled on it.
Candice commented on how this tasted almost like Shao Bing..... George told us that this is the very traditional bread they make.
Also arriving was the Feta Cheese Pie ($3.25), but by this time we were pretty stuffed.
The four of us shared a Aaysh Essaraya ($3.95) which finished us off.
All in all a very reasonably priced meal at under $50 for four! And we had a really nice chat with George, who told us how the refractory oven is actually the second oven. The first was bought prefabricated, but had many flaws, so he sent it back ($4200 in shipping), and had the one he uses built on site.
Alforon is quickly becoming a fixture on our rotation.... and even on this night, I had to have a container of garlic paste (8oz - $3.95) to go. As always it was wonderful to spend time eating and chatting with Howie, Jenne, and Candice..... thanks for a great time!
I'm really blessed to have so many FOYs (Friends of Yoso). There are times when I don't hear from them for pretty long periods, but I always appreciate the recommendations folks like KenB and "SomTommy" provide. Receiving emails from them is like getting an early Christmas present. I hadn't heard from FOY ChristinaC in a while, perhaps not since one of her recommendations Chef Tony closed. So I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from her in my inbox two days ago! And even better, it was a recommendation; for a shop called Alforon. Christina's rec's are beyond refute, so even though the Missus was under the weather, we made sure to drop by this tiny shop on El Cajon Boulevard ASAP.
The interior of the shop is tiny, but full of warm colors, and there are wonderful fragrances coming from the oven made of refractory concrete in the back of the kitchen.
The menu is small, but like the very friendly, energetic, and warm Samia, one half of the husband and wife team that owns this shop says, "it is full of good food, everything except one thing, the baklava is made here." Samia makes time to talk to all her customers, and since we really stood out; everyone else seemed to be Lebanese or Armenian, she was curious as how we had found Alforon. I told her that a very "dependable source had emailed me and told me I had to try this place."
Since the various versions of the freshly made flat breads looked great I went with the version topped with Soujouk($5.75):
Looking like a wood-fired pizza, this was wonderful, nice texture (a decent bit of pull), topped with deliciously spiced sausage, and a light sprinkling of fresh white cheese. I really enjoyed this, and can't wait to try othe versions of this...... I have a feeling the basic Zaatar, made with imported organic wild thyme and other herbs and spices will be heavenly.
The Missus, craving Falafel went with the Falafel wrap ($4.95):
This was a nice combination of flavors and textures, but was overshadowed by the Soujouk. Still the Falafel was fried to order, and was nice a crisp.
We also ordered the Baba Ghannouj ($5.85), which was nice, not overly processed, and without too much tahini, hit the spot.
This is where I failed twice as a food blogger; engrossed in my meal, I forgot to take photos of the pita bread (ok) and the wonderfully briney house made pickles. I loved those pickles, which edged on the briney side, but was great with the baba ghannouj on a pita. The young man helping with the tables noticed how much I loved these and asked me if I wanted more! At that point, George, Samia's husband started dropping by each table to see how the customers were enjoying their meal. You can tell that George and Samia really care about what they're serving.....
And since Samia told us that we "just had to try some dessert", I walked up to the counter, and asked the young man what we should have. He pointed to a tray in the cold case, pointed, and said "you have to try that, it is the best." Since I just saw a gentleman polish off one of these, then get two orders to go, I didn't need much more prompting..... we had the Aaysh Essaraya ($3.95):
Starting with a bed of slightly sweet, thick, clotted cream, on which laid a bread-bread-crumb like layer, topped with crumbled pistachios and fragrant rosewater, this was indeed quite good. No wonder they call this "bread of the mansion." Even I, not much of a fan of desserts really enjoyed this.
Needless to say, we'll be back. The food is reasonably priced(everything under $7), but you'll be tempted to get something to go. We saw two tables of two gentleman end up buying $55+ of food....they ate a good amount, and got even more to go......we were tempted to do the same....... George and Samia are so warm and friendly, they make the meal an even more enjoyable experience.
Alforon 5965 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
Thanks again for the wonderful recommendation Christina!
Welcome back to mmm-yoso!!! the food blog written by Kirk and occasionally ed(from Yuma), VickyL, Cathy and a few others. Kirk is on vacation and today Cathy is writing.
The other day, I was on College Avenue at El Cajon Boulevard and drove into the Vons parking lot. I remembered a bagel place that used to be here, years ago and saw this instead.
Curious as I am about food, I walked up, asked some questions, grabbed a paper menu saw they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, smoothies and fruit bowls. They serve halal meat, no alcohol. The families who own and run this very clean establishment are Lebanese.
The Mister and I first went on a Saturday afternoon. Three people were waiting for "To Go" orders, Two tables were filled with people eating, there was one couple in front of us. We ordered, paid and sat down.
We decided to try a cheese & zaatar pie ($2.99). Dough is made in house then baked in the wood fired oven (to the right, behind the pastry case above) the fresh bread dough is topped with a blend of 'premium cheeses', sesame seed and zaatar (oregano, sesame seed, olive oil and herbs) A nice blend of seasonings and quite a bit of cheese on this small (8 inch) pie. You can get a Zaatar pie for $1.99 if you don't want cheese.
The Mister ordered a beef gyros salad ($8.99) (the menu has chicken gyros as an option). The Mediterranean salad - lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pickled onion, parsley and mint topped with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil (house) dressing. Topped with sliced grilled beef gyros (moist/slightly greasy in a good way). This was a large, plentiful, fresh and tasty salad. I ordered the "Combo 3"($8.99)- an assortment of house made hummus, tabouli, falafel and spanakopita. House made everything.: The falafel was made of fresh chickpeas (not the powdered mix) and were light, airy, tender and just crispy on the outside. The spanakopita was crispy (not soggy on the bottom) and filled with Feta cheese as well as spinach and onions. The tabouli was very fresh parsley and bulghur, feta, onions and lemon juice. The hummus was excellent. All were done quite well. The Mister and I shared a cup of Turkish coffee ($1.99).
We went back for breakfast.
First, we ordered a small bowl of fresh fruit ($4.49), cut up just for us (which is the same as when a smoothie or fruit juice is ordered-fresh fruit that is available, not frozen fruit). Banana, apple, pineapple, cantaloupe, papaya and strawberries. Very fresh, flavorful fruit. This was made on the other side of the cash register, where most people were walking in to get their morning smoothies.
The Mister tried the scrambled eggs with chicken schawarma ($6.99). There was more meat than egg. Simple, flavorful, moist. We figured two eggs were used.
We got a plate of pickles.
Along with four pieces of fresh baked, hot bread. These are small, maybe 4 inches, but thick and fluffy and soft. I believe it is the same bread used for the zaatar pie, above, just not as flattened/thin. The pickles and bread accompanied my most wonderful hot breakfast of Foul Mudammas ($5.99) A 30 year old family recipe of warm, cooked fava beans, mashed then mixed with fresh garlic and lemon juice, topped with olive oil.
All cultures have some sort of warm breakfast, usually a grain like oats or bulghur or rice that is a usually made into a sort of porridge. Items have to be added in for flavor- salt, butter, brown sugar or fruit. The fava beans and garlic with lemon juice is by far my most favorite. Garlic for breakfast. Nothing needs to be added to this bowl of goodness. Yay!
Coffee is free with any breakfast order. It is a good dark roast of coffee. The food here is wonderfully fresh. Everyone has been very nice to us every time we have had a meal here, answering questions and asking how we like the food. I plan on stopping by whenever I am in this part of town.
Garden Fresh Grill and Smoothie. 6165 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite F San Diego 92115 (619) 287-2373 Website Open 7 days, 8 a.m.- 9 p.m.