- 1800 E. Fort Lowell Road, Suite 168, Tucson, AZ, 85719
- Overall User Rating:
- (4 ratings)
- Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
What was ordered: One beef shawarma plate ($8.95), one falafel plate ($7.95), one slice of spanakopita ($2.95) for a total of $19.85, just short of our Cheap Eats max of $20 for two people.
Comments: It may sound hard to believe, but after a night of drinking most people would opt for a drunken gyro over a bean burrito. In cities all across Europe and even the U.S., Middle Eastern food is the late-night dining option of choice.
In London, people flock to food stands and small shops serving skewers of lamb. In New York, halal carts often outnumber hot dog vendors. People eat shawarma in the Middle East, but also Madrid, Chicago and, yes, even Tucson.
Unfortunately, El Saage isn't open after the bars close. Still, the restaurant itself is more akin to the casual fast food offerings you see in big cities. The owner of El Saage, Joseph Abi-Ad, started the restaurant after closing the fancier Le Mediterranean. He also runs Joe's Pancake House on the East Side.
I have to admit, I was a little dissappointed after my first glimpse at the menu. The signs advertise "A Taste of Lebanon," but almost everything is standard Middle Eastern fare. The menu ranges from classics such as a hummus plate for $5.95 to a meat combo with beef and chicken shawarma for $12.95. If you want to stay under the $20 mark for two people, it's hard to branch out and order any specifically Lebanese dishes. Not to say that they don't eat shawarma in Lebanon, but I was excited to see how this country's food was different from those around it.
No matter, though. The food here is, to put it lightly, excellent. I could be enamored just with the idea of pickled turnips in general, but the ones here seemed to be extra special. We only ordered two plates, but each one came with so many complimenting ingredients I could go on for hours.
The beef shawarma was accompanied by a coalition of tabouli, hummus and pita bread, tahini sauce, rice, pickled turnips, pickles, onions and radishes. The beef arrived in seasoned strips, but was actually overshadowed by the finely blended homous and crunchy tabouli (a mixture of cracked wheat bits and chopped parsley). As stated before, the pickled turnips were out of this world. They were bright pink and had this amazing bitterness, and were soft and firm at the same time.
The pickled turnips also came with the falafel plate, though they didn't mix as well here as with the beef. In this dish, they were upstaged by the spheres of ground garbanzo and fava beans. The falafel was delicious, made with a perfect combination of spices and browned and crispy on the outside.
The only thing that didn't impress was the spanakopita ($2.95), a Greek spinach pie we ordered on the fly when we noticed the sign by the register. It was fine, but just not crisp enough. The crust kind of tasted like it had been sitting out all day.
Service: Order at the counter.
Bottom line: If you stick to the Middle Eastern treats, this place is great. It offers some of the best shawarma I've ever had, and doesn't skimp on all the extras. If you're really craving late night gyros, go to that hookah bar The Luxor Cafe. These dishes are good enough to eat sober.