Last month, when we visited Fred’s Meat and Bread, while we were in line Jo was eying the menu and counter at Yalla, a fast-fresh Mediteranean / contemporary Israeli foodstand. Yalla is a next door neighbor and sister restaurant to Fred’s, and another restaurant from Todd Ginsberg. The menu is quite simple – you can have either a pita, laffa (lavash bread), bowl or salad, filled (or topped) with shawarma, kabob, a vegetable mix or falafel.
This version of shawarma was chicken grilling on a vertical spit behind the counter. You then work your way down the line, with them building your meal as you go, as you would a sub sandwich. You start with the spreads (like hummus and babaganoush), then add condiments (various pickled things and fresh vegetables – I had some pomegranate seeds added to mine). One of the toppings that Jo really enjoyed was the Israeli salad, made of fresh tomatoes, onions, lemon and oil – think of it as Mediteranean pico de gallo. Then they add yogurt sauces or oils and spices. And then put the protein in it or on top of it.
Jo ordered the shawarma in a pita and I chose the lamb kebabs in a pita. If you are in agreement on what you’d like to share, a laffa is big enough to split between two. Here’s Jo’s chicken shawarma pita:
She had most everything that they offered in her pita – including marinated cauliflower and all kinds of spices and sauces. On my pita, as I’m more picky, it ended up being quite sparse – just lamb, hummus and pomegranate seeds. I didn’t even take a picture because it looked pretty lame. We also shared some hummus with hot pita bread.
Overall, it was fine. But I had two complaints:
1 – the way the pita was built. As they build your “sandwich”, they’re stuffing it from the bottom to the top. This works great when you’re eating a sub, because you’re eating a sandwich that was built horizontally from a vertical direction. With a stuffed sandwich, you’re eating vertically, basically like an anthropologist, eating your way through layers of ingredients. And because everything is stuffed inside a pita, there’s not a way to mix it up.
2 – the speed of preparation. It’s not like they’re cooking your meal to order – they’re just putting it together. But as the menu explains virtually nothing, there is a lot of question and answer with the folks making the meal. It seemed to take an inordinate amount of time.