- 2545 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ, 85716
- Overall User Rating:
- (2 ratings)
- Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
What was ordered: Ali Baba sampler ($9.99), Persian kabob sandwich ($6.99) and two waters (free) for a total of $18.35 including tax, within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20.
Comments: Inspection issues aside, this popular eatery serves Lebanese and Persian specialties that have made it a popular University of Arizona-area destination in a ZIP code well-stocked with Mediterranean eateries.
It's always hard to pass up a sampler plate at places like this. Usually, my least favorite item on said platter is the baba ganouj (they spell it baba ghnouj here). I'm not a huge fan of eggplant to begin with and, when combined with cumin, it seems to often come off as gamey and overly sour. Ali Baba helped me realize why this dish is so dear to so many people. The grilled eggplant had somehow been imbued with a deep, smoky, steak-like flavor that got more and more tantalizing and satisfying with every scoop of pita.
The sampler plate also featured a pair of excellently soft-textured and nicely spiced falafel, a decent serving of hummus (though it was a little light on the tahini and olive oil for my taste), two excellent stuffed grape leaves and a smallish serving of tabbouleh that was anomalous for the copious bits of diced tomato added to the parsley, mint and bulgar.
We went Persian with our other selection, the joojeh Persian kabob pita, a serving of grilled chicken, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and tzatziki in a portion so generous it takes two pitas stacked end to end to envelop the ingredients. Joojeh recipes call for saffron, which in many cases is largely replaced with turmeric, but there seemed to be a distinctly saffron-ish quality that went beyond the Halloween hue of the nicely grilled chicken, which was combined with just the right amount of tzatziki and the rest of the supporting cast.
Service: Tableside service or counter service for take-out.
Bar: no; corking fee if you bring your own
Bottom line: The pitas served with both plates were fresh and puffy and everything we ate was indicative of an eatery that does enough business to cycle through its meat and produce at a rate that has all the offerings tasting fresh and vibrant.