Thursday, May 23, 2013

Aladdin Pita: a Merrillville Oasis

Aladdin Pita, a Merrillville Oasis
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
May 22, 2013

Admittedly not a big fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, I recently enjoyed, not one, not two, but three good meals at good prices at Aladdin Pita in Merrillville, IN, at the behest of my girlfriend, who had dined there frequently in the past.

I will share a secret initially shared with me upon my first foray into Aladdin Pita’s menu – there is a daily lunch special not found on said menu. For six bucks patrons can enjoys a dinner’s worth of food for lunch.

Having eaten this lunch special three times, I can attest that it is enjoyable, filling, and mostly consistent. Seated in a dimly lit restaurant in a non-descript strip mall-ette of fewer than a half dozen forgettable stores, the low key wait staff brings small dishes of humus, baba ghanoush, and a cucumber, tomato, cilantro combo, along with fresh baked pita bread. While the pita is freely replenished, don’t eat the contents of the small dishes too quickly as extra costs a buck a dish.

While eating the appetizers, the lentil soup arrives – thick – almost a pea soup consistency, but yellow in hue with a slice of lemon accompanying. Never one for lentil soup, this is quite savory, and for a cup, leaves one wanting more.

The entrees should have been, and were, served in a reasonable amount of time as in each visit, Aladdin Pita was sparsely filled.

Surrounding a mound of yellow seasoned basmati rice are a delightfully spiced shredded beef – called shwarma, chunks of seasoned kabab chicken, two link sausage-shaped pieces of lamb – called keftah, some more of the cucumber salad, served with a tiny ramekin-shaped dish of tasty tahini, and a falafel ball atop the rice.

In two of three visits, leftovers were brought home. In all cases the beef was excellent and the lamb was consistently good. The chicken was dry in two of three cases and overcooked in the third.

If the regular menu is anything like the lunch special, I am confident there will be something for just about everyone. From vegetarian dishes to sandwiches to salads to kababs the menu is rich with ethnic specialties and numerous options.

Service is consistent and steady, but not personable.

Attached to Aladdin Pita is the restaurant’s store featuring even more ethnic options any fan of Middle Eastern cuisine will enjoy.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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