Monday, June 22, 2015

Yalla! (Atlanta, GA)

99 Krog Street, Atlanta, GA 30307, T: 404-506-9999

Yalla! is an Israeli restaurant in the famous Krog Street Market of Atlanta, which is a covered market with some ten specialty and high quality food places. They serve a variety of Middle Eastern dishes, such as falafels, kebabs, and shawarma, as well as salads. The disches come as pita, laffa, or bowl. The pita is the classic solid pocket, while the laffa is more similar to a huge burrito.

I get the Laffa Falafel ($12): Definitely the biggest falafel sandwich I ever ate, which is not surprising for the US, but also one of the best. Amazing flavor, so fresh, so authentic. M gets a Laffa Sabich ($12), which combines hummus, egg, fried eggplant, pickled vegetables, etc. HUGE! It is a feast of different fresh flavors with a nice spicy kick.

VERDICT: 96/100
Some of the best ‘Israeli’ food, period!

Butter & Cream (Decatur, GA)

416 Church Street, Decatur, GA 30030, T: 404-378-7272

Butter & Cream is a new artisan ice cream shop in downtown Decatur. It caters to the affluent hipster/granola population of the town, who have the money to buy this quite pricey homemade ice cream. They always offer some twenty different flavors, including “classic flavors” like Tahitian Vanilla and Mint Chocolate Chip, “signature flavors” like Bourbon Toffee and Butterscotch Brownie, and “rotating/seasonal flavors” like Ricotta Honey Pistachio and Three Taverns Milk.

I get two scoops ($5) in a Waffle Cone (+$1): toasted coconut + blood orange. It’s a big fresh cone with one huge scoop (toasted coconut) and one small (blood orange). The blood orange has almost the consistency of ices rather than gelato, but it tastes very fresh. The toasted coconut tastes a bit like vanilla ice cream with toasted coconut in it.

VERDICT: 87/100
Expensive but good homemade ice cream

Uncle Giuseppe’s Market (Smithtown, NY)

95 Route 111, Smithtown, NY 11787, T: 631-863-0900

Uncle Giuseppe’s Market is an amazing chain of grocery stores on Long Island, which seems to double as an Italian import and deli. They have five locations and this one in Smithtown is their flagstore. It has an absolutely amazing selection of imported, nice brands, own brand, and homemade foods. It also sells gelato!


I get two scoops of the homemade gelato ($4.99). The lemon is zesty but a bit too creamy for me. The almond cookie (?) is pretty much that: soft almond cookie in the form of ice cream.

VERDICT: 85/100
Not the best gelato I ever had in the US, but pretty amazing for a grocery store.

Mykonos Greek Restaurant (Smithtown, NY)

45 Route 111, Smithtown, NY 11787, T: 631-979-2000

 Mykonos Greek Restaurant is a small restaurant in a strip mall on Long Island. As we sit down we hear Greek customers behind us, which we take as a good sign. Perhaps this is more than a standard Greek diner-type place, which sevres more American than Greek fare. And indeed, the menu ncludesmost staples of the Greek(-American) cuisine, from gyros to keftedes, from avgolomeno soup to spanakopita.

We start with humus and pita ($6.99). The humus is creamy and lemony, very fresh and tasty. The pita is delicious. We then have chickpea salad (fresh and tasty) and M has a salad with tilapia (decent, not special). I have the Keftedes in Pita lunch special ($11), which comes with soup, soda, and rice or fries - I pay $1 extra for a fresh Greek side salad. The pita is warm and filled with soft and tasty small meatballs covered in freshly diced tomatoes, onion, and parsley. It comes with a delicious yoghurt sauce on the side.

VERDICT: 89/100
Unassuming place, but with great Greek diner-type food.

Lucky’s Lounge (Boston, MA)

Boston Logan Airport, Boston, MA, T: 617-567-2299


Lucky’s Lounge is a Boston institution. Situated at the Waterfront in South Boston, it is an award-winning restaurant that also hosts shows. More recently it has opened a location at Boston Logan Airport, which I visit on my way out.

I get the Lucky Burger ($11), which comes with fries. It already looks sad when it arrives. An old diner type burger: big soft bun, pile of iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles and caramelized onions. The burger is dry and well-done, not medium as I asked, and it takes me three attempts to get the mayo. The fries are lukewarm and soggy.

VERDICT: 62/100

Perhaps the South Boston location is better, but at the airport it is really poor quality for a steep price. 

Pepe Bocca (Sommerville, MA)

414 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02144, T: 617-776-6687

Pepe Bocca is a specialty store that imports and sells foods from Italy and serves Italian food, mostly to go. The selection is amazing, from pastas to sauces, from cookies to breads. One side of the place does pizzas (by the pound) and pastas, the other sandwiches. It is pricey, but not that crazy.

I get the Italian sandwich ($8.95): Mortodella, two different types of salamis, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, hot peppers, and olive oil on a fresh, rich ciabatta. Al meats are imported and freshly sliced. Absolutely delicious and filling.

VERDICT: 95/100

As good as it gets. 

Tasty Burger (Cambridge, MA)

40 John F. Kennedy St, Cambridge, MA 02138, T: 617-425-4444

Tasty Burger is a Boston chain of upscale fast-food restaurants with current five locations (including Fenway Park) and a food truck (bonus points!). My friend and fellow-burger connoisseur RS had driven me crazy with pictures of them on Facebook, so when I finally found myself in Cambridge, MA, he took me to the one on Harvard Square. Ironically, it now faces a Shake Shack, which is a very similar type of chain. Tasty Burger serves a variety of specialty burgers (beef, turkey, veggie), hot dogs, crispy chicken, etc.

I get the Big Tasty ($5.75) with 50/50 Fries & Rings ($5). The Big Tasty is a 1/3 lb patty, perfectly grilled (medium, as asked), with lettuce, pickle, red onion, tomato, and tasty sauce. Reminds me of the Shake Shack Burger, which is a compliment. The fries are crispy but relatively thin, while the onion rings are really onion strings, which is not really my thing. Both are well prepared, but lack strong flavor.

VERDICT: 91/100

Really good burger chain, but the sides are a bit underwhelming.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Istanbul Mezze Grill (Sheffield, UK)

152-154 West Street, Sheffield S1 4ES, UK, T: 0114-275-9191

Istanbul Mezze Grill is a large kebab shop annex Turkish restaurant on a busy street just outside of the city center of Sheffield. It serves various types of kebabs (Döner, shish, Adana) as plates and sandwiches.

I get a plate with a mix of Shish chicken and Adana with rice and a drink for £9. It includes five big pieces of perfectly grilled and nicely seasoned juicy chicken, a nice piece of tasty Adana kebab, a small piece of pita, some rabbit greens, and heaps of rice. All in all a very good and actually quite healthy dish.

VERDICT: 88/100
One of the best kebab stores annex Turkish restaurants I ate at.

The Hot Sausage Company (Sheffield, UK)

Fargate, Sheffield, UK

The Hot Sausage Company bills itself as “the UK’s premier street food franchise.” The idea is pretty straightforward: a small cart serving the company’s sausages in regular (£2) and large (£3)—they also have a more spicy Mexican sausage. At the cart there is a huge choice of sauces, mostly varieties of bbq and exotic spicy sauces. I visit the cart at Fargate, a central square in downtown Sheffield, which at that time has a small fair going on.

I get a regular (£2), which comes on a thick bun and with grilled onions. The sausage is the same as every sausage in the UK, at least at fairs and sports games: oddly soft texture and salty taste.

VERDICT: 80/100
The Hot Sausage Company offers average sausages but gets extra points for the cart.

Fanoush Falafel Salad Bar (Sheffield, UK)

103 London Road, Sheffield S2 4LE, UK, T: 0114-327-3134
Fanoush Falafel Salad Bar is a small shop in the center of Broomhill, an area of Sheffield. It mainly serves falafels, humus, and salads – they have a choice of various different types of hummus.

I get a regular Falafel sandwich, which normally costs £3 but at 14:30 only £2 (happy hour!). You get four small, freshly made falafels, which are crushed on (jalapeño) humus, mixed with pickles, salad, and a spicy chili sauce, all within a wrap. It is small, mostly wrap, but spicy.

VERDICT: 80/100

Fanoush serves small, half-decent falafel wraps for decent to good value, depending of the time of day.