Well-made Lebanese dishes

TAKEOUT

October 23, 2002|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For the first time the other day, I was sorry -- if just for a moment -- that I don't smoke. It happened when I walked into the Aladdin Cafe on the western fringe of Locust Point.

For $7, you can purchase one of more than two dozen varieties of flavored tobacco and light up using a fancy Lebanese water pipe known as a sheisha -- all while sitting on the deck and watching the boats come and go in the Inner Harbor.

Me? I was just there for the shish kebabs.

The quirky Aladdin -- like so many carryouts in this city -- supplements its menu with American-style pizza and subs. But its heart is its well-made -- if not particularly cheap -- Lebanese dishes.

The Aladdin's hummus ($4.95 including pita bread) was quite fresh and tasted sharply of tahini. Grape leaves ($5.50) were a vegetarian's delight: a nice combination of rice, tomatoes, mint and parsley. And the baba ghannouj ($4.95), pureed and seasoned eggplant, was garlicky and good.

For entrees, we tried the chicken shish kebab ($7.59), lightly seasoned pieces of meat grilled with a slice of tomato, onion and pepper. The Aladdin's feast ($15.95) featured lamb, beef and chicken. All were well-seasoned and cooked, but the beef and lamb were a bit overdone by the time we cut into them at home -- a common problem with carryouts.

We skipped the American-style pizza to sample manakish b'sbanigh ($7.50), a Lebanese-style version made with spinach, onions, sumac, pine nuts and feta cheese. The flavors worked well together, although it was a tad too salty.

Desserts include cheesecake and chocolate cake, as well as our choice, homemade baklava. Ours was filled with finely ground pistachios and was only moderately sweet, a good thing. (The cafe also sells walnut baklava.)

The Aladdin is easy to get to from Key Highway or Fort Avenue, and there's a good-sized parking lot. Nonsmokers, please note that all the smoking goes on outdoors on the deck, not inside the restaurant.

Aladdin Cafe

Food:

Service: 1/2

Waiting area:

Parking:

Where: 1421 Lawrence St., Locust Point

Phone: 410-625-7800

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Middle Eastern sandwiches and entrees from $3.95 to $15.95; American-style pizzas and subs from $4.75 to $9.99; credit cards accepted

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