NJ Dining: Bennies

December 1, 2009

Note: with the recent review of Bennies in the New York Times, I decided to feature one of my favorite local restaurants. I’ve updated the post with a bunch of new photos from a recent meal.

Bennies Englewood
54 E Palisade Ave, Englewood, NJ
(201) 894-5700

Web Site: http://www.benniesofenglewood.com

When I’ve been eating hardcore pizza and hamburgers and meats for a couple of days, I crave refreshing Mediterranean cuisine that is dominated by vegetarian dishes. My favorite place to indulge in this is Bennies, a family-run Lebanese restaurant on Palisade Avenue in Englewood.

IMG_4634.JPG

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OTB Economic Stimulus Outing with Victor Sasson, Saturday September 26, 2009

September 14, 2009

PLEASE NOTE RECENT VENUE CHANGE! — Jason

South Paterson Collage by you.

For our second event in our series of OTB Economic Stimuli, I’ve enlisted former Bergen Record restaurant writer and fellow food blogger Victor Sasson to bring us on a tour of the “Little Damascus/Little Ramallah/Little Arabia” section of South Paterson, NJ. On Saturday, September 26th, we will meet and have lunch at 12 noon at a local Middle Eastern restaurant in Paterson and then go on a shopping tour of the local area which will include markets and local bakeries.

When: Saturday, September 26, 2009, 12 Noon

Where: Aleppo Restaurant, 939 Main Street (at Thomas), Paterson NJ

Estimated Cost: Approx $30.00 per person for Lunch

What we will be doing: Eating great Middle Eastern food and Shopping with Victor Sasson

For those of you who have already reserved a spot: Due to maintenance issues at the original restaurant, please note Victor Sasson has changed the venue for this event. He has arranged for a classic Syrian meal of small plates called maza, followed by several entrees, such as stuffed vegetables, kibbe with cherries and a mixed grill, for Saturday at Aleppo Restaurant, 939 Main St. (Thomas Street) in Paterson; 1-973-977-2244. There will be some parking on the side street, Thomas Street, but others won’t have a problem.

The meal will be $30 per person, including tip and tax. The appetizers will be on the table at 12:15. Please allow yourself plenty of time to find parking. :)

We expect that we will only be able to accommodate about a dozen people total, so please reserve on our facebook page or contact rperlow AT gmail.com if you would like to attend.


NJ Dining: Al-Safa (Bab Al-hara)

August 23, 2009

Al-Safa (Bab Al-hara) Restaurant
960 Main Street, Paterson NJ 07503
(973)569-4545

Web Site: http://babalharapaterson.com/

In a previous post about the very excellent Al Basha Palestinian restaurant, I spoke a bit about the Middle-Eastern community on Main Street in South Paterson, which my friend Victor Sasson likes to refer to as “Little Damascus”, due to the large population of Syrian-owned businesses there.

My forays into South Paterson have been limited, mainly due to my general lack of familiarity with the Arabic language. I’ve certainly eaten a ton of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, primarily Israeli, Greek, Lebanese and Turkish, but in the Bergen County area. For lack of a politically correct way of saying it, being a Jew and someone of clear Semitic ethnic origin by general physical appearance and given the current geopolitical climate, historically I would tend to not venture into a predominantly Arabic-speaking area of New Jersey for shopping and eating purposes.

However, I’ve been exploring the area much more lately — for reasons entirely unrelated to food. Paterson is also home to a large retail outlet of Micro Center, a gigantic computer parts store, one of the few places in New Jersey you can still walk in and buy actual PC components. It used to be that we had CompUSA and many independent retail computer shops, but now they are mostly extinct, destroyed by companies such as Amazon and Tigerdirect who can undercut them on price and volume. Such is the way of the new economy.

So if I’m going to schlep down to Paterson (actually, it’s really only about 30 minutes from where I live, as long as traffic cooperates) I might as well get some stuff to eat. I brushed up on my basic Arabic and went exploring. After living in the Northern NJ area for nearly 20 years, I now wish I had done this years ago.

Al-Safa Restaurant, Paterson NJ by you.

Al-Safa Storefront on Main Street in Paterson.

Looking for Kebabs and Schwarma? Eat like a Sheikh in Paterson.

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NJ Dining: Babylon (UPDATED)

August 18, 2009

Babylon Mediterranean Restaurant
606 Kinderkamack Road
River Edge, NJ

In August of 2006, Babylon, one of our favorite Turkish/Middle Eastern restaurants was forced to close when its lease was not renewed along with several other stores in the ill-fated Huffman-Koos shopping center in River Edge. Needless to say, I was totally bummed out by this development — not only was Babylon a great dining value but it also made some of the best Turkish and Middle-Eastern food that you could find in Bergen County. To get anything comparable, you had to go to Patterson or Union City. While we still had Kervan in Cliffside Park (a restaurant that has seen better days, its hardcore Turkish crowd long gone) and Samdan in Cresskill (admittedly solid Turkish place, but just didn’t have the precise atmosphere or taste I was looking for) they just weren’t the same — Babylon’s doner and other kebabs were made fresh from scratch daily, and had a definitively home made flavor that couldn’t easily be duplicated.

However, all was not lost. In Late March of 2007, Babylon re-opened only about a mile away from its original location, on Kinderkamack Road on the site of Shanghai Restaurant, which had closed six months before. The owners completely renovated the interior, and now Babylon, menu unchanged, with prices more or less the same, is back and better than ever.

Babylon storefront on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge

Babylon returns! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more. Read the rest of this entry »


NYC Dining: Kabab Cafe

July 26, 2009

Ali’s Kabab Cafe
2512 Steinway St, Astoria, NY 11103
(718) 728-9858

Ali Kabab Cafe, Astoria NY by you.

Ali Kabab Cafe on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. This tiny storefront could be easily overlooked by a passer-by given the dozens of Middle Eastern restaurants and stores on that block. Don’t pass this one up.

Lately I’ve been taking more flights in and out of New York’s LaGuardia airport given that fact that I have been giving more and more of my airline business to Delta, who has a substantial presence at LGA in both the main and Marine Air Terminals. The side benefit of this is that LaGuardia is right next to the town of Astoria, which houses one of the largest Greek and Middle Eastern communities in the United States.

The main strip of Steinway Street, which used to be predominantly Greek 20 or 30 years ago is now more of an enclave of Lebanese, Palestinian and Egyptian stores and cafes. One such cafe that I had always wanted to visit but never really had the opportunity to eat at is Ali Kabab Cafe, a tiny, cramped but eclectic cafe that rightfully boasts some of the best Middle Eastern food in the New York metropolitan area.

I do have to warn you that if you eat at Ali’s, you are not just going there for the food, which in and of itself is creative and phenomenal and will not be like any Middle Eastern food you have ever eaten before.

You’re going there to be a guest of Ali Al-Sayed, who is a character that can only be described as an intellectual entertainer. If you strike up a conversation with Ali, you had better be prepared to listen, because this guy is a student of art, history and politics. If you have any interest at all in Egyptian and Middle Eastern culture, you’re in for even more of an experience. Just ask him questions about the stuff hung on his walls and you’re going to get an earful. He is the closest thing to a culinary ambassador that Egypt has in New York, or perhaps the United States.

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