Aladdin Restuarant – Kanawha City, Charleston, WV
I think I enjoy middle eastern food as much as Susan loves Chinese food. The bright lemon flavors combined with the silky olive oil make many dishes pop. Please don’t confuse this cuisine with Indian food, because the flavors are totally different. Counties like Syria and Lebanon border the Mediterranean Sea and the foods more closely resemble the flavors of Greece.
Aladdin is quietly tucked away on Chesterfield Avenue on the “other side of the tracks” from CAMC. This family owned business has a loyal following, and I see the same people dining there everytime I go. The dimly lit dining room is decorated with a few pictures of the home country, but for the most part the room is pretty plain. If you want to have a quiet dinner with your significant other this place fits the bill. When you walk in the door you will be seated at a table dressed in starched linen and real napkins. Something you don’t get at TGIFriday’s or Ruby Tuesday’s.
Like the dining room the menu is relatively simple. I suggest you start your meal with an order of authentic hummus. That garlicky, preservative laced stuff in the deli case can’t hold a candle to this silky smooth chick pea spread. In the past in was served with the traditional thin pita bread, but on our most recent visit they put a basket of toasted flat bread on the table. This serving is the right size for two, but I am always left wanting more. Also the baba ghanouj is good if you enjoy roasted eggplant. I think it is yummy, but it is not for everyone.
Aladdin always has soups and their interpretation of lentil soup is worth getting. You can choose from a few salads, such as the Tabbouleh, Aladdin and Fattoush. The stand out lunch entrees are the kabobs and either the Falafel or Gyro sandwiches. Today I had the vegetarian Falafel Sandwich. Falafel is a combination of ground chick peas, parsley, onions, garlic, and spices. They are formed into little dough nut shapes so they will fry evenly. They have a nice nutty flavor. They place four of these in a thick pita shell then top it with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tahini sauce. It is served with chips for $5.95 or add fries for a buck more.
Susan got the Shish Tawook kabob on her visit and I will let her describe it, but I don’t understand why it costs 50 cents more than the chicken kabob? The only difference is spices. It is still good, but I do feel a little cheated when I get it for $8.45.
The dinner menu is more elaborate with items like rack of lamb and kibbe. They serve wine and beer to enhance your dining enjoyment. If you are tired of the chains and want something different give Aladdin a try. Warning – No kids menu. Also they are closed on Mondays and for a week of vacation every now and then so call ahead on your first visit just to check . Aladdin Restaurant – THREE Forks.
If my dad had his way, he would eat at Aladdin restaurant every single day for lunch. Unfortunately for him, his office recently moved from Kanawha City to downtown Charleston, so he has been suffering withdrawal. And, so have I as he had gotten into the not-so-shabby habit of buying my lunch there since I work in KC too. I usually don’t choose this place when we have the Vegetarian Offspring with us because there really aren’t a lot of menu choices for them. I really needed some hummus, however, so there we went.
On this occasion, we asked our server if they could make a grilled cheese sandwich (they serve cheeseburgers so we know they have cheese and buns in stock- you do the math.) She was pretty darned sure that wasn’t going to be possible until I caught sight of my dad’s co-owner buddy and gave him a desperate smile and wave hello. He came over to say hi and assured her that they could make a grilled cheese on gyro bread.
Hummus with Flat Bread
I don’t see the point of going to Aladdin if you don’t order the hummus. It is completely perfect. So, I ordered that and was dismayed that I had to share (my dad doesn’t like it so I get it all to myself when I eat lunch with him.) I also ordered the Aladdin salad which is chopped romaine lettuce, red onions– I pick these out– and tomatoes in their house dressing (lemon and olive oil).
When I was little, I was spending the afternoon at a friend’s house when we happened upon a bowl of Lebanese salad in the kitchen. She swore it was left over from the night before so we took the liberty of digging into it and wound up eating every single bite. That yummy lemony dressing with a hint of mint…. mmmmmmm….. We soon found out that it was, in fact, meant for that night’s dinner and her mom was pretty mad. Can you imagine that a couple of 10-year old kids got in trouble for eating a bowl of salad. Wow. Times have changed. Anyway, whenever I eat the Aladdin salad, I think about that. It is a perfect salad.
I ordered some fries for the girls. The fries were pretty perfect. And the grilled cheese gyros really should go on the menu, I think. Because guess what? Yup. Perfect. Though our friend said that instead of putting it on the menu he’d keep it a secret special just for us. Whoops- the secret’s out now.
As the meal progressed, the server warmed up to the girls and didn’t even get mad when the little one spilled her water all over the place. She allowed them to serenade her and do some gymnastics moves in the otherwise empty restaurant before we left. I appreciated her being a good sport and at least appearing that she was genuinely interested in them. So, all in all, it was a pretty perfect meal in my book.
Since Dan went to Aladdin over the weekend, the lunch gang minus Dan (He was at a conference) visited the establishment during the following week. This was my second visit to Aladdin. I remembered that the food was good but I thought it was a bit expensive for what I got. My feelings have not changed.
Aladdin is close to my work and there is plenty of free parking. The restaurant has a nice, quiet, relaxed air. I can imagine coming here for an intimate dinner with a date and lingering over a bottle of wine. Although I am not sure what the pairing would be for falafel. Our service from entering the door to receiving our meals was excellent. Our server continually checked back with us for drink refills and to keep us apprised on the estimated time of arrival of our food.
I ordered the aforementioned falafel for the table to nibble on as an appetizer. We received a plate with 5 small donut-shaped, deep-fried nuggets of chick peas covered in sesame seeds placed on a lettuce leaf for $3.95. Accompanying the “donuts” was a ramekin of tahini, a sauce made from sesame seeds. They looked pretty good on the lettuce leaf. I was the pioneer – I placed one on my appetizer plate and cut it open. I smelled it and could not get a read on what it would taste like so I put it in my mouth. I still couldn’t really describe what it tasted like. I thought I would like it because I like hummus and hummus is made of chick peas and therefore kept an open mind as I continued. Then I tasted another bite with the tahini. Still, I was unsure what the seasonings were and what caused the strange aftertaste I was experiencing. After completing the experiment by eating the entire “donut” I concluded: I do not like falafel. But I was glad to have experienced it.
For lunch I order the Shish Tawook, a kabob of chicken with spices, Mediterranean rice and vegetables for $8.45. The menu indicated this dish is “hot” so I hoped it truly was. So many times the menu lies when it comes to heat. Purely for research purposes I ordered a basket of fries, based on Dan’s recommendation, figuring all four of us would partake.
My entree was pleasingly presented and the chicken and onion pieces had been removed from the skewer. I appreciated this because I have come close to doing a “Pretty Woman” before and flicking the meat clear across the room on accident trying to remove my food from a skewer. The rice was just plain rice and I was disappointed they didn’t step it up and add veggies or herbs to the rice to spiff it up. The vegetable was green beans cooked with tomato. These were really good. The chicken was pretty spicy, I was glad for that, but I only received 5 small nuggets of meat. Combining the chicken, rice and beans in one bite was the optimal way to enjoy this meal. I had a healthy meal there on my plate, low-fat, and could easily be low-carb by subbing extra veggies for the rice. (Just so you know, I only ate a bite of rice to taste it so I could comment on it. Don’t ask how many fries I ate!) I would definitely order this again and ask them to kick it up a notch and make it extra spicy.
The fries arrived in a red plastic basket with a piece of waxy paper as a liner. I felt like we got plenty of fries for the $2.25 on the bill. They were deep-fried and crispy on the outside. These fries were straight and thick-cut, bigger than Wendy’s fries. I liked that there was plenty of potato inside the crsipy exterior. I wish they had more of a golden color and I felt like they should have been cooked on a higher temp to avoid soaking up so much oil. Even after we finished our entrees, the fries remaining in the basket were still crispy and warm. These are good fries, for frozen, but will not reach my Top Five.
Soda price was a bit on the high side at $1.89 and it was that “other” brand. But, as I mentioned, our server made sure we got all the refills we desired.
Things were going great until we got the bill. Everything was on one check. (Warning: shameless plug coming up – That is a pet peeve of mine and you can read more about my tips for pleasing lunch hour patrons in an upcoming satirical post.) We asked for the charges to be separated and from then on the world began spinning very slowly. It took forever to get the new totals and then to finally get our change and receipts so we could leave.
On an ordinary day, my total would have been $10.96 for the kabob, rice, beans, and soda. I feel that is too high given the small portion size. When I compare this meal to other $10 lunches around town, there are others that I feel are better for the money.
If you don’t enjoy Middle Eastern food, you will not enjoy Aladdin. They do their thing and they don’t pretend to be something they’re not. I respect that. However, you don’t know if you like Middle Eastern food UNTIL YOU TRY IT. So take a break from hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and country-fried steak and try Aladdins. The food was freshly prepared in a nice, but not ostentatious, atmosphere. I say: THREE FORKS.
oh yeah – we saw Tracey’s dad there the day we ate lunch!
3024 Chesterfield Ave
Charleston, WV 25304