Yalla – Atlanta, GA

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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. 

Would I go back?  Sure.  But I’d eat at Fred’s next door.
Yalla on Urbanspoon

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