Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Maiden Ln between Broadway and Nassau

This Lebanese spot in the Financial District is a lunchtime hard grubbin favorite. It’s always packed with Wall Street types so dedicated to their falafel and baba ganoush they’re willing to wait 30 minutes or more in line at the counter for their lunch. I never get a chance to get into the ‘noose due to the long waiting times, but today I was lucky enough to go by during an unusually slow time of the day. Their Middle Eastern food is authentic and delicious. Their platters come piled high generous portions of meats, grains, and salad; enough to satisfy your ravenous appetite. Today I opted for the Kafta Kabob platter. It came loaded up with two pieces of kafta, burgol with tomato, salad, and stuffed grape leaves. A solid lunch for $13. I’ve never had the falafel but New York and Gourmet magazines claim it’s the best falafel in New York while other magazine called it one of the "best meals under $20.” Their shish tawuk, lamb kabob, and lamb shawarma are also great choices. I’m a hard critic of Middle Eastern food but this place earns my support. The salads taste fresh, the meats are nice and juicy, and they serve Middle Eastern specialties you don’t see at your standard cookie cutter Middle Eastern joints throughout the city. If you’re in an especially Hard Grubbin mood, add to your order a kibbeh doused in the white sauce; tasty as hell.

One warning, this place is unusually slow. Today there were only 4 people in front of me in line and it still took about 30 minutes between when I walked in and when I started eating. Not sure why, they have a ton of people working back there. But the staff is quite friendly and when you ask for extra anything, they give that rare look of hard grubbin understanding, and gladly oblige.

Long wait times aside, it’s still the best Middle Eastern lunch counters I’ve been to in Downtown Manhattan. It may not be as amazing Salaam in Chicago or Tanoreen in Bay Ridge but really, who is? In this rough and brutal world of Hard Grubbin Al-fanoose always holds its own.

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