Best Middle Eastern - 2009
Gazala Place; Lamb and Chicken Carts, everywhere
RobtS: Middle Eastern restaurants have been one of New York's best choices for quasi-healthy food delivered quickly and at reasonable prices—ever since Mamoun's handed its first falafel over the counter in the 1970s. SarahDG: Cut to the chase, please! RobtS: The collection of overlapping cuisines is much richer than the falafel and schwarma suggest. I was blown away this year by the Druze cooking I tasted at Gazala Place. Delicate whole-wheat pitas as thin as a handkerchief and as big as a hubcap. The damn things are cooked on a dome in the window. Like the cheese-stuffed boreks with black sesame seeds on top, and the freaky salad of green wheat grains called frekasai, in addition to the expected bread dips, kebabs, and braised meats. Top that place! SarahDG: I was going to say Tanoreen, for all the magic that's made there with lamb and eggplant, or La Maison du Couscous, because the tagines are so good. RobtS: Love that second place! SarahDG: And the owner is such a character, right? But honestly, right now, my favorite Middle Eastern food comes from one of the many gyro and schwarma carts humbly parked on the curb. This year, the little guys started to be pushed out by moneyed, hipster trucks, and so my appreciation goes to the sizzling lamb that smells so unnaturally good, the mysterious white sauce, and the hot sauce. Long may they reign.