I’ve probably never thought that Middle Eastern food is the type of food that needs innovation and modernization. Give me some well-executed schwarma nearly any day of the week and I will be a happy man. Yet, Pita Jungle not only exists in the Phoenix area, but it has multiple locations that demonstrate a pattern of success. Oh, and it just oozes modern Middle Eastern.
Persian food is a special type of Middle Eastern food, and thus I was very excited to learn that Scottsdale has its own Persian restaurant, appropriately named the Persian Room, because it’s basically one big room. With Persian food. And like any Persian restaurant worth its salt, its menu was vast and filled with all sorts of meats and rice. Essentially it was the kind of place that was made for an unvegan.
You know what’s great about being Jewish? No Lent. No Ramadan. Sure, there’s been thousands of years of persecution and an annual fast or two, but nothing that compares to the longevity of the institutionalized pain of those two holidays. Worse still, sometimes Ramadan falls in the summer and you can’t even drink water. With all of these thoughts in mind, I found myself in Malaysia in the summer in the middle of Ramadan. And in Sandakan in Borneo, this meant the nightly Ramadan Market. The most impressive part about it is that observant Muslims somehow manage to walk up and down the market and order food without eating a bite of it until the sun goes down. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait.
Sierra Madre might be one of LA’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away just east of Pasadena, the town features an old school Main Street reminiscent of the supposed good old days. And just like many little towns of its type, there isn’t a whole lot to. Yet, there are at least a couple of restaurants and bars and we decided to try out Corfu, a Middle Eastern spot.
Food court food isn’t typically known to be great, but then food court food isn’t generally Middle Eastern. Massis has kind of built a food court empire around LA, dishing out mostly Middle Eastern food with a sprinkling of random things like Argentinean Skirt Steak and Idaho Trout. I found myself at the Santa Anita mall and went looking for kabobs.
I had little idea of what I was getting into when I agreed to grab dinner at Raffi’s Place in Glendale. Glendale hosts, of course, the biggest population of Armenians outside of the Middle East, but I was meeting my Persian friends and knew that Raffi’s had to have at least some Persian touches. This turned out to be true, as Raffi’s Place served up Armenian food with a Persian twist because a bunch of ethnic Armenians come from the land formerly known as Persia. But enough about ethnicities and whatnot, let’s get on with the food.
The Detroit area is populated with some pretty amazing Middle Eastern food. This is due, of course, to the high population of people from that region. Thus, I operate under the impression that you can’t go wrong with any place because of the big time competition. So when I stepped into Shawarma Kingdom in Birmingham, I walked in with expectations.
EDIT: As Conflict Kitchen is always changing, it is no longer Palestinian, but it may be again some day.
Conflict Kitchen in Oakland has a pretty cool concept: shine some light on countries the US has conflict with by dishing out food from that country. The menu changes here and there and in the past has featured the likes of Venezuela and North Korea, but the current version has caused more controversy than any previous iterations. Of course, this might have been expected when you start serving Palestinian food.
Turkish food isn’t exactly the type of food you can find anywhere. Yet, miraculously Pittsburgh isn’t lacking in that department. One of these spots is Daphne Cafe in Shadyside. We arrived on a snowy winter day and sadly found the place empty. Then again, it was also 3 in the afternoon, so not quite prime time.
One thing that has been sorely missing from my life since packing up and moving to the more easterly part of the country is Middle Eastern food. You know, that and beaches. But seriously, I found Salem’s in Pittsburgh, but not so much in Buffalo. So when I took a trip back home to Michigan for a weekend Middle Eastern was one thing I craved more than anything else, even more than Coney.