Euphoric Eat: Mamoun’s Falafel

Euphoric Eats has returned – again. It feels really good to write again, especially after a summer to forget. Enough about me though, let’s get to it! On this culinary review, I’ll be showcasing Mamoun’s Falafel, the pinnacle of cheap eats in New Brunswick.

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Its central location on Easton Avenue (in between Somerset and Hamilton) makes it a great option for both the business and school crowds. I’ve been frequenting this Middle Eastern marvel since my freshman year at Rutgers, and if I were to die tomorrow, I would choose to have my last supper here. It’s just that good.

Word to the wise: I ordered a chicken kebob sandwich when I came here with my dad for the first time five years ago. As a lifelong hot sauce fanatic, I thought it would be a great idea to douse my food in what is to this day, the spiciest condiment I have ever consumed. My foray into such hellacious hotness also holds the dubious distinction of making me cry. You live and you learn. Sometimes the hard way.

In terms of the atmosphere, it’s a bit on the smaller side with seating arrangements, but the cozy atmosphere and upbeat, funky tunes more than make up for it. To eat at Mamoun’s always puts me in a state of nirvana. One of the best parts about the menu is that both the herbivores and vegetarians can get along just fine. Or perhaps you like it both ways – Team Omnivore!

The ancient greek playwright Euripides once said, “When a man’s stomach is full, it makes no difference whether he is rich or poor.” This sentiment rings true especially for a broke college student such as myself. At Mamoun’s, you can get the most value out of any restaurant on or around campus. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a personal feast, there are plenty of diverse, inexpensive choices for all types of eaters.

I have a really hard time deciding what to order, because everything on the menu is so damn good. I suppose it makes the most sense to do this categorically. Let’s get to it!

Veggie: The most bang-for-your-buck deal in town is, without a doubt, the falafel sandwich. For just $3.50, you can have yourself a warm pita stuffed with the deep-fried chickpea mix from heaven, along with lettuce, tomatoes and tahini sauce. Garlicky and gustatory, you can also supplement its taste with fresh items like hummus, baba ghanoush, or tabbouleh for just 50 cents more! If that’s not a steal-icious deal, I don’t know what is.

Falafel

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Served over a bed of rice or salad, my go-to vegetarian choice has got to be the combo platter. For just $7.50, you can choose up to three different veggie items to go along with a serving of fresh pita. I like to mix up my platter every time I order it – grape leaves, fool mudammas, and hummus are favorites of mine. The pickles and olives add diversity to what is already an impressive flavor profile. Always make sure falafel is the core ingredient, though. As my friend and Mamoun’s employee Phinehas once told me, “Life is never awful as long as you’ve got falafel.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Observe: a platter of palatable perfection. Indeed, some of the best New Brunswick has to offer.

Best of Brunswick

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Meat: If the picture below doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what else will.

Superb Shawarma

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Just as the title of the picture implies, it is truly ‘superb shawarma’. Thinly sliced from rotisserie-cooked lamb, this piquant delight is a favorite of mine, and the touch (or dousing) of tahini sauce adds even more flavor to a meat with just the right amount of tenderness. If you’re not a fan of lamb, the masterfully-marinated chicken kebob sandwich may be the move for you; in addition, the kafta and shish kebobs are worthy alternatives. Price: $6.50 for meat sandwiches, all varieties. Not bad!

If you’re feeling like you need to “treat yo self”, go for the extraordinary: the meat AND veggie combo platter. For $12 it won’t hurt your pocket too bad, but it is best enjoyed on an infrequent basis. At least that’s what I do, considering my income is a big goose egg right now.

Dinner

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Sides, Sweets, & Drinks: Out of all the seven deadly sins, gluttony is the one most applicable to my life. So what better place to satiate my gustatory greed than at Mamoun’s?

Alas, there are limitations to eating for this college student, so in order to keep things frugal, sometimes I’ll mix and match a few side dishes to hold me over. Ranging from $2-3 dollars each, you can order items like hummus or baba with pita, a 12oz. cup of tabbouleh, pickles & olives, or grape leaves. Lentil soup is a great choice as well, especially with cooler weather on its way.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the best side of all – falafel, of course. I swear, I could subsist off those bite-sized beauties alone. $2 for 3 pieces? All day, baby. All day.

You can also satisfy your sweet tooth here courtesy of an almighty dessert, baklava. A honey-soaked pastry made with unleavened fillo dough and walnuts, it’s the perfect capper to a meal at Mamoun’s. I haven’t tried the other sweets yet – knafe, mabrumeh, and namoura, but if the baklava is any indication, I’m sure all of them are just as delicious.

As for the drinks, the best refreshments in my opinion are the mango juice and the mint lemonade. Though their flavors are in stark contrast to one another, each are equally refreshing. A great antidote to the tongue-burning hot sauce, the mango juice has a strong sweetness to it, while the mint lemonade offers a more subtle tartness.

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There really is never a bad time to eat here. If you’re in a rush, you can call ahead and order takeout. Otherwise, take your time, relax, and enjoy the grub. If your taste buds are overpowered by the hot sauce, well, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Hopefully my review has inspired you to take a trip here soon! Lunch, dinner, or late-night, any meal at Mamoun’s is alright 🙂

Euphoric Eat: Sahara Restaurant

Lamb is wonderful.

Lamb is wonderful.

I wasn’t planning on writing a review for this place, as I already wrote about a Mediterranean restaurant in a previous post. However, this was some of the best food I’ve eaten in a while, so sharing this experience was necessary.

I booked a reservation for Valentine’s Day, and kept it a secret all week until Kelly and I finally made it to the restaurant on Saturday night. When we got there at around 8:30, it was more packed than a Rutgers bus on a Friday night. Thankfully I planned ahead (what a novel concept!) and we didn’t have to wait too long before being seated.

After reading the scriptures of succulence also known as a menu, the feasting began as we munched on a myriad of delicious appetizers.

And what a feast it was. From the crispy falafel doused in tahini sauce, to the sigara boregi, which are fried rolls of feta and dill, and lastly, the freshly made pita, I was in heaven. OHHHHH THE PITA!

I swear, I might be addicted to this stuff. Kelly had to forcibly remove it from my possession, otherwise I would’ve wolfed it all down.

I was already on cloud nine enjoying my appetizers, when the wait staff made a mistake that turned out to be quite fortuitous for us. The couple next to us ordered a pair of soups, and the server gave them to us by accident. It would be the last time she ever saw those soups again.

I’m the type of guy that likes to eat first and ask questions later, so when she placed them on our table, I went right in–but not before dipping some leftover pita in the soup! It must have been some of sort of creamy lentil broth, but whatever it was, it was terrific!

After our stockpile of savory snacks was finished, out came the main course. Kelly, knowing I am an absolute hog when it comes to finishing other people’s food, decided to order a tilapia dish. I’m not the biggest fan of fish out there, but boy, I had one bite and was humming in delight!

Kelly played it safe and brought the rest home in a takeout box. It appears as if she has developed a resistance to my food-fiending ways. You win this time…

There’s an old adage that states don’t mess with success. This rang true especially for me, because I ordered the same entree I did at Efe’s, the adana kebab. If you’ve seen my Facebook or Instagram lately, that Mediterranean marvel of a picture was indeed my dinner.

I had a difficult time eating it, because like a great movie, you just don’t want it to end. It might have been the best lamb I’ve ever had. There was juiciness in every bite, and the seasoning added a perfect amount of flare to the meat. The sides of rice and couscous were just as tasty!

Sahara wouldn’t go down without a fight though. After paying the bill, we headed straight back to my house, as we were suffering from the worst of ailments: a food coma.

This restaurant is a great venue for special occasions, but it’s not the type of place I’d frequent. The only reason why is because of its price range. Being a college student, you just can’t have 50 dollar dinners all the time.

Other than that, I can’t find a thing wrong with this place. The service is prompt, the staff is friendly, and the atmosphere is great. You gotta treat yourself every now and then, so make Sahara your next stop. Your bank account may be thinner as a result, but you certainly won’t!