Once upon a time in the land of Clintonville, a shop called Aladdin's was the only Middle Eastern game in town. As the solitary local provider of sit-down-service shawarmas, it was quite frequently packed and remained so for over 1,001 nights.
Then along came a competitor that set down beside it, and the new kibbe maker in town - a fair and talented thoroughbred - quickly became the falafel of every Clintonvillan's eye. Alas, all of the sudden Aladdin's didn't look so packed or popular anymore.
Well maybe this story can have a happy ending after all. You see, one day after I walked into the hot new rival and noticed its imposing line and lack of seats, I made the short one-block trek back to Aladdin's. There I discovered a laminated page menu addendum that seemed to suggest the place had learned not to take its patronage for granted anymore.
The page said this: "Dear Valued Customers, you have given us so much, now let us give back to you"; it went on to promise, "the highest-quality food product" as well as a great deal with the new combo dish it was heralding called The Flavor Savor.
Costing a mere $8, the nearly built-for-two Flavor Savor delivers on all counts. In fact, it's like a mini Middle Eastern smorgasbord on a single overflowing platter. On it you get the raw and the cooked, the grilled and the fried, your dinner and leftovers.
Here's the breakdown of its bounty:
• Chunks of grilled skinless, boneless chicken thigh meat with an enticingly aromatic Middle Eastern spicing
• A hefty, hockey-puck looking portion of falafel fried to a crunchy, un-greasy golden-brown outside and sporting a cumin tinge to its bright, herby green interior
• Fairly fluffy and loose white rice cleverly threaded through with vermicelli and tasting of chicken bouillon
• The stars of the show: two robusto-sized stogies of kafta kabob - juicily delicious grilled sausagy logs of ground meat mixed with onion and parsley
• A lemony hummus that's smooth, if a tad grainy - this ties all of the elements together
• A non-afterthought salad, with romaine, red cabbage, mesclun, diced tomato, cucumber and green pepper dressed with a nice tart vinaigrette.
Now that's a hell of a lot of good food for the price. I don't know if this Flavor Savor will be Aladdin's savior, but with a deal like this, it should prove there's room for two sound Middle Eastern purveyors in the lovely and enchanted land of Clintonville.