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Photograph by Stacy Newgent
This is where you’ll find the best falafel in town. I guess that needs a disclaimer. The falafel standards aren’t high in this burg. They’re usually mushy or burnt. And that middle ground of crispy outside and tender inside seems to escape most Mediterranean restaurants. With that said, Ali Baba’s falafel is good. And so is everything else. This is not a posh place with hookahs where you sit on the floor. It’s in an old sandwich shop, which used to be a chili place, which used to be a deli. The interior is functional…and that’s about it. The magic of Ali Baba is in the Americanization of Middle Eastern food. Their build-your-own sandwich or salad is the specialty. Sandwiches start with chicken or steak shawarma, kebab, gyro meat, falafel, or veggies that they stuff in a pita, and then they keep stuffing in all kinds of stuff: tomato and cucumber salad, onions, eggplant, lettuce, roasted veggies, Kalamata olives, hummus, feta, red cabbage slaw, and baba ghanoush—whatever you want until you have a heaping mess. The salads are the same thing, just more of it, and without the restriction of the pita; they aren’t heavy, but one can easily feed two. The delivery of the food at Ali Baba may have been Americanized, but the flavors certainly haven’t been. Sure, you can get a burger and fries, but you can also get stuffed grape leaves and Turkish coffee. By the way, the homemade baklava was nothing to write home about. I’d skip it. But you’ll be so full you’ll pretty much have to.
4793 Red Bank Rd.
Originally published in the April 2012 issue.