9344 Union Centre Blvd.
Located in a non-descript strip mall in West Chester, Aladdin's Eatery has a friendly staff and an inviting decor that belies it's plain-Jane exterior. The Lebanese-American menu boasts over 40 vegetarian items, many of which can easily be made vegan. There are also choices suitable for gluten-free, diabetic and heart-healthy diets.
Although I had it as a starter, the hearty vegetarian chili ($3.45) is a meal in itself and has a pleasantly spicy kick that may tingle some tastebuds. If heat isn’t your thing, there is a tamer option that mixes mild lentils into the chili. Other vegetarian soup options include nine-vegetable and lentil. All are made from scratch, and there are no sulfites, artificial starch or other additives.
The restaurant takes their healthy fare a step further by offering freshly squeezed juices, raw juice combos, and smoothies sweetened with unrefined natural brown sugar. There is also a good selection of hot tea (organic and kosher), coffee, beer, and wine - including several varieties of Lebanese red and white.
Of the eleven salads, eight are vegetarian. They include an almond salad, fruit & nut salad, spinach salad, fattoush, falafel, and Lebanese salata. Most salads are under $7, with meat-enhanced salads (chicken, turkey, tuna) slightly higher. Can't decide between the rolled pitas and a salad? Try one of the salad pockets, which combine salad with fillings such as falafel, babaganoush, lentils and tabouli, served chilled inside a pita pocket.
Aladdin’s doesn’t skimp on their sandwiches; their hummus-falafel rolled pita is one of the largest falafel wraps I’ve encountered, and also one of the tastiest. The lightly fried chickpea patties are present in every bite of this toasted wrap, which also includes hummus, tomatoes, greens, pickles and small chunks of turnip. Delicious. Not into hummus? Try it with tahini yogurt or babaganoush (eggplant spread) instead.
The restaurant also offers what they call "pita pitzas," which are flat pitas toasted and topped with a variety of ingredients. Steve opted for one topped with char-grilled chicken tenders, bell peppers and scallions drizzled with honey dijon and garlic sauce. Our server suggested adding cheese and crispy onions, lending added crunch to the pitza. Four of the seven pitza offerings are vegetarian.
If you want to spice things up, be sure to request a side of their house made hot sauce (.60c). The creamy sauce looks innocuous enough, but with notes of garlic and pepper that are sure to light you up. Keep tissues handy – this stuff WILL turn on the internal faucet in your head. So good it's worth buying a 12 oz. container ($5.95) to take home.
I was intrigued by the fatayer ($5.75), a spinach & onion pie topped with feta cheese and scallions. From the description I was expecting something similar to Greek spanakopita, and while fatayer uses similar ingredients, the addition of lemon juice lends a tart, almost vinegary taste to the dish, and instead of flaky filo pastry the filling is baked inside a large, wrapped pita.
Aladdin’s Eatery is a franchised chain headquartered in the Cleveland area, and while the West Chester restaurant is currently the only local one, there are plans in the works for a second location in the Clifton Gaslight District. It will take me a long time to eat my through the entire menu of vegetarian delights at Aladdin's, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.