Welcome back to Tengo Hambre. At least, I hope you’ve come back. I hope you didn’t read my first column and realize the truth (that I’m extremely underqualified to review restaurants) (that I should buy a thesaurus) (that I’m mostly motivated by hunger instead of journalistic integrity).
Either way, if you’re here, thanks. I appreciate it.
In Round 2 of this great experiment, I tried to make it a little easier for you guys, and I split the distance between East Lansing and Lansing to go hang out in that monstrosity of a strip mall called Frandor.
If you’ve ever been to Frandor, you know that it must have been designed by some civil engineer who either barely graduated community college or who was really smart but had an evil streak. It’s like a series of interconnected parking lots with no real way to get from one to another so you just kinda have to make it up. A successful trip to Frandor depends as much on your knowledge of sign language (to communicate with the other poor souls who find themselves there) as it does your driving ability.
But if you can get past the potential for a few minor traffic accidents, there’s some pretty good things in Frandor. Michaels – for supplies to decorate your beer pong table. A Coney Island – a good alternative for Saturday/Sunday hangover breakfast that not as many students go to. A slightly sketchy Kroger – for groceries when you just can’t take going to Meijer one more time. And of course, my destination: New Aladdin’s Restaurant, for Middle Eastern food.
When my friends and I set off for Aladdin’s, we had high hopes. It had earned 4.5 starts on Yelp! (with the all-important lone dollar sign under the price section) and great reviews about both the food and the service. And for me, it pretty much fulfilled those expectations. For my friends – some yes, some no.
We went on a Saturday night, and although it was far from full, there were enough people there to not make us nervous. We were the only students, which is pretty much standard, I’ve noticed, for places off Grand River.
The menu was pretty extensive, and pretty well priced. Pretty much anything you would want or expect from a Middle Eastern restaurant was available (with an optional side of fries – always a plus).
Three of us ordered entrees, (the ones we got were all around $8-$9, but the more expensive ones got up to about $15) and one ordered a sandwich (which was around $5). All of them came with a side (soup or salad) and the entrees included hummus and pita, which came out almost immediately after we ordered.
On the hummus front, we were divided. I thought it was pretty standard, good but nothing special, but others thought it was some of the best they’d had in a while and complimented it on being super fresh. There definitely was a lot of it, which was nice, because it lasted throughout my whole meal – which also arrived really quickly, by the way.
We all ended up getting different sides (ideal for you readers out there just dying to know more about New Aladdin’s). I got the fattoush salad, with romaine, tomato, green pepper and toasted pita bits. It was hands down the best part of my meal. I could tell it was super fresh, and it had this light, lemony vinaigrette dressing that I wished I could have bought a gallon of because I would eat it on every salad for the rest of my life. Seriously.
My three friends got the tabouli salad (also super fresh, though a bit too onion-y for some of us, but perfect for others), a lentil soup (a little too lemon-y, my friend thought, but otherwise good) and one daring (aka hungover) soul went for the French fries. The one I tried was a little mushy, but I guess that’s what you get for ordering fries at a Middle Eastern place.
On to the main course. I had the yes, conservative, but ultimately good choice of chicken shwarma over rice. It was literally that – just chicken and rice – but it was really, really good. The rice was perfectly cooked, the chicken was well-spiced and delicious, and there was a lot of it. The leftovers are sitting in my fridge right now, calling to me, but I told myself I have to finish writing this before I eat them.
My friends had varying experiences with their meals. One got the eggplant and falafel sandwich which she described as “dense” (whatever that means – I told her you guys need more varied descriptors than that but she wasn’t having it) but good. She added some turnip from another plate that she said broke it up well. The second got a vegetarian combo, which included grape leaves, falafel and mujadara (a rice, lentil, onion combination). This was not as much of a success. The falafel was deemed “nothing special – a little dry”, the mujadara “kind of flavorless” and finally – and I quote – the grape leaves were so lemony that eating them was “like sucking on a lemon-chamomile tea bag.” So. You might not want to order the grape leaves.
My last friend had kind of a terrible experience. I’m hesitant to write about it too much because I don’t think it’s typical of the restaurant but I don’t want to gloss over it, either. She ordered vegetarian cabbage rolls, which she thought tasted a little weird, but ate anyways. As we were paying, our waitress came over and apologized because – psych – the kitchen had messed up and given her the meat version. The waitress and the owner were super distraught and apologetic and rightfully didn’t make her pay, but my friend is a strict vegetarian, so it was a traumatic experience for her. I don’t think this should make you never go to Aladdin’s, because it’s the kind of mistake that I could see happening (a scribbled-down order or a too-quick glance at what was written could easily cause it), but still. Pretty big mistake.
My conclusions about this place:
– Food was good, but order carefully – some things aren’t as great
– They really like lemons
– I want more fattoush salad
– Frandor needs to install a full infrastructure of lanes, traffic lights and preferably some of those people who wave down planes at airports to direct confused drivers
– Thank god I’m done writing this because now I can go eat my leftovers