Euphoric Eat: Sanctuary

The word ‘sanctuary’ is traditionally defined as a place of safety or sacredness. This Easton Avenue eatery has validated its namesake, and then some.

According to the restaurant’s website, their mission statement is “to be a cut above the rest, and to be a safe haven from fast food.” While there are certainly plenty of artery-clogging choices to indulge in, make no mistake – among their culinary counterparts, they certainly are a cut above the rest.

I’ve been frequenting this magnificent eatery since my days of off-campus living, and besides the blight it has brought to my bank account, I have enjoyed every meal there. From breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to the late-night cravings, Sanctuary’s ever-expanding menu selection has brought me joy with each and every visit.

After recently going through a change in management, as well as some renovations to the restaurant’s interior, Sanctuary feels like a brand new place. Though I do not want to disparage the prior management team, let’s just say that the service is miles ahead of where it used to be. Nonetheless, it is still just as lovable as when it was somewhat of a hole in the wall. Thankfully (or regrettably), it is still open until 2 in the morning on most nights – score one for the munchies!

One thing that has not changed is the quality of the food, which has always been outstanding. Though Sanctuary is known for signature items like its burgers and cheesesteaks, healthy eaters should have no reason to fear. There are plenty of great vegetarian options, chicken entrees, and salads, all of which are reasonably priced. You can download a PDF menu here. All of those choices are available in panini, wrap, or quesadilla form, further adding to the diversity of the menu.

They have also added a new dimension to their menu – ethnic cuisine. Of course, there are plenty of authentic Middle Eastern and Asian places to eat in the Hub City, but given the chance, I would certainly try these international dishes. The chicken tikka dish, a tandoori chicken breast with sautéed onions and peppers, looks particularly appetizing. I hope they make it nice and spicy!

Despite the myriad of healthier options, I always seem to gravitate towards the choices which induce food comas; my favorite items include hearty, if not indigestible meal items. When it comes to unhealthy eating, Sanctuary is rivaled only by the legendary Rutgers grease trucks.

In my opinion, the most illustrious item on Sanctuary’s menu is the buffadilla, which consists of a quesadilla stuffed with fried (or grilled) chicken, french fries, cheddar jack, and spicy buffalo sauce. For only $8, this quintessential quesadilla has long served as one of my go-to meals in all of New Brunswick. See it, in all of its gooey glory, below!

The Almighty Buffadilla

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If your plans include going to the electric chair, perhaps “The Monster” is right for you. The aptly-named cheeseburger is essentially diabetes between buns: THREE beef patties, topped with onion rings, fries, and three different types of cheeses. And of course, bacon. No gastronomic gluttony is complete without such porky perfection.

Personally, I have never eaten it, for the simple fact that I would like to live past the age of 50. It also costs $18, which is actually pretty reasonable – but only if you are trying to feed a family.

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If you managed to make it this far through the review, at this point you have either (A) felt a series of overpowering growling sensations in your stomach, or (B) been thoroughly repulsed by the sheer obscenity of some of the menu options. Fear not, friends. Their frozen treats are the cream of the crop! (pun very much intended)

The uncertainty that comes with deciding whether to order ice cream in a cup or cone is generally a good problem to have. Having to choose from 30+ flavors, however, can be a stressful situation, especially in my case. Brownie Batter? Cookie Dough? Death by Chocolate? Peanut Butter Panic? I could go on and on, but the point is that Sanctuary has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ice cream.

Cookie Surprise x Brownie Batter

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One of my favorite combos is the Cookie Surprise and Brownie Batter; indeed, a divine pairing of palatable perfection. After doing some mathematical calculations (with the help of Google, of course), I determined that there are nearly 600 different combinations of ice cream you can make. To try them all would be an insurmountable task.

Last but not least, we have the milkshakes. I am definitely not the foremost authority on savoring them; I usually gulp them down like glasses of water, but I’ve had more than my fair share over time. The ice cream to milk ratio in Sanctuary’s shakes is unparalleled, and its smooth taste is the stuff of legend.

With both quantity and quality on its menu, Sanctuary is without a doubt one of my favorite restaurants in the ever-expanding culinary scene of New Brunswick. This eatery has been a staple throughout my eating odyssey at Rutgers and beyond.

Sanctuary may not seem like anything special from the outside, but it is exactly what its name implies – a haven for foodies!

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 🙂

Eating in New Brunswick on a Budget

Check out this podcast I made, chronicling some of the great restaurants in New Brunswick where you can get a bite for cheap!

Featuring: American Classics, Ethnic Cuisine, and After Hours!

Hope you enjoyed listening. Now get out there and enjoy some grub…