Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jerusalem Bakery and Grill: Mediterranean Food in the Peach State

Restaurant: Jerusalem Bakery and Grill
Address: 585 Franklin Gateway SE, Marietta, Georgia
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/27/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my latest review! Today I will be talking about my first experience in the city of Atlanta. Atlanta has a significant number of halal places, but they're mainly in the north and northeast side of town, (Fulton, DeKalb, and Gwinnet counties). Cobb county, where Marietta is located, doesn't have as many. I was honestly shocked since I always thought that Cobb county was the second significant county in the Atlanta area after Fulton. One of the places that I actually got to go to was called Jerusalem Bakery and Grill. This was a last minute decision since there were over 15 family members and we had to drive all the way from Masjid Farooq in downtown Atlanta just to go there. We also decided to go here because it was near the hotel that we were staying at (Hilton Marietta Conference Center). After the nikkah was done, we went there.
Keep in mind that this is different than the Jerusalem Bakery and Restaurant in Alpharetta.



Let The Experience Begin!
To get to the place, you have to get onto South Marietta Parkway SE from I-75, thentake a left onto Franklin Gateway SE and then get into the strip mall. Attached to the restaurant was a bakery, where you could buy them for your house. We all got chairs and sat down. My uncle asked what we wanted and were ready to go.



Let's Eat!
Most ordered the chicken shawarma sandwich, falafel, or the philly cheesesteak. I ordered the shawarma plate. I did this after asking what was popular and the response was "Everything". We all got Mexican glass bottle sodas. Most got Coke, including myself, and some got Sprite and Fanta. As soon as the food is ready, it is delivered to the other side of the restaurant, where someone calls out the order. While waiting, I watched them prepare the food and talked to my cousins.



Menu: http://jerusalem-bakery.com/restaurant/
Not only do they have Mediterranean food, they also have pizzas, calzones, and strombolis. The pricing is pretty good.



The shawarma plate. I got the chicken

The Verdict:
One thing that particularly surprised me was that they didn't give the garlic sauce or hot sauce when you get the place. You have to go to the counter and ask for them. Then, you pour some over the plate and eat. Anyways, the food was on point. My family loved their food and were raving about it. They also gave me props for telling about this place.
The service had no issues. Just got the food, enjoyed it, thanked them, and left.



Conclusion:
If you want to have some halal food in Marietta, then I would recommend this place. It's also very filling. A good start to this Atlanta trip.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10
Total: 16/20 = 80% (B)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information
Jerusalem Bakery and Grill
585 Franklin Gateway SE, Marietta, Georgia
Phone: (770) 419-1666
Website: http://jerusalem-bakery.com
Timings: Mon-Sun: 9 AM - 9 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Afghan Express: The Worst Afghan Place I Have Eaten at So far

Restaurant: Afghan Express
Address: 5600 Hillcroft Street, Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: Buffet
Date of visit: 8/16


Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be doing a really quick review of another Afghan place called Afghan Express. I got to go here from my internship because I did not bring lunch from home. Since it was a Tuesday, I could eat lunch, then head immediately back to work.
Now let me tell you something about the location. In the past 5 years, there have been 3 separate restaurants that have occupied the space. Afghan Express is the 3rd one. The only other time that a new halal place replaces an old halal place was when Fatoush replaced Aladdin's (independent of the Aladdin on Westheimer).
One thing to note about this place is that it has received a lot of positive feedback on the Internet. In fact, I first heard about this place via extremely heavy promotion on Facebook in various groups. What immediately caught my eye was that they used the same logo as Afghan Dastarkhwan and put Afghan Express on it. It turns out that the same people who used to own Afghan Dastarkhwan now own this place. There is even an article written about them by Houstonia Magazine named "Why You Should Try Afghan Express' $10 Lunch Buffet" (article: http://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2016/4/29/why-you-should-try-afghan-express-10-lunch-buffet).



Let The Experience Begin!
Inside, it was DEAD. For most of the time, I was the only one inside the restaurant eating the food. It was incredibly eerie. There was only a TV. I got in and started eating.



Let's Eat!
It was a buffet consisting of various Afghan items like Kabuli Pulao, bolani, and the Afghan version of chicken tikka. It came with free naan. To drink, I just had water. I paid a total of $10.98 (tax included).



Menu: http://www.afghanexpress.net/menu-specials.html
The buffet from what I know is only on the weekdays for lunch. The online menu on the other hand is for other times. Now, one thing: WHICH MENU IS THE CORRECT ONE??? Both have different prices on them for the majority of the menu items. How can you commit a fundamental mistake by not deciding what prices to use? If anyone were to dine in for the first time, you give them one menu with one set of prices, and then you actually charge them the prices from the second set, then you'll lose customers and you'll get a bad reputation for ripping people off.


Top: naan. Bottom right: Kabuli pulao, chicken korma, chappli kabab, chicken kabab, and chicken tikka. Bottom left: daal, bolani, chappli kabab, chicken korma, and chicken tikka



The Verdict:
The food was a hit an miss. The naan and the chappli kabab were the only things that I liked. That's it. I didn't like the Kabuli Pulao (or rather the Kabuli Pulao rice as it lacked the lamb shank). I didn't like the daal as well, and this is from someone who is a huge daal fanatic. The chicken tikka, chicken kabab, and chicken korma were OK. However, one of the pieces of chicken tikka that I had was actually raw (I wish I still had the pic). The bolani was without a doubt the worst that I have ever had in any Afghan place. I expected much much better. Overall, one thumb down.
The service was much worse. No greeting from the owner. Literally no words said. During my entire trip, he was very quiet. I said "Thank you" and he never responded. Never has this happened to me in a while. What also put me off was that when a group of older customers came, he was very friendly greeted them, and even conversed with them. I don't know whether it's either favoritism or it's that the owner is like this towards other people or youngsters or that he was scared that I was going to say something bad about his food.



Conclusion:
I'm not going to lie. I was thinking of trying their a-la-carte one day if the buffet was good. But since both the buffet and service did not hit the mark, I'd neither recommend this place nor would visit the place again. Heck, if I want some good Afghan food, I'd just head to Afghan Village or Afghan Cuisine.



Grading:
Service: 3//10
Food: 5/10
Total: 8/20 = 40% (F)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Afghan Express
5600 Hillcroft Street, Houston, Texas
Phone: (281) 974-2163
Website: http://www.afghanexpress.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/houstonafghanexpress/
Timings: Mon-Sun: 11 AM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

3 Bros Kabab House: House of Kabab^2

Restaurant: 3 Bros Kabab House
Address: 8586 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/11/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! This will be a quick review of 3 Bros Kabab House. I haven't been able to write on my blog because I've gotten really busy with school and other things that have been happening in my house. Anyways, 3 Bros Kabab House is basically run by the people that used to run House of Kabob. When they were running House of Kabob, their food was good, but the service could have improved. This is the best chance I have to see whether they improved or not. I got to go here before attending the Friday prayers. After telling my boss I was going to lunch and prayer, I headed out for the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin:
The restaurant is located on Westheimer and Dunvale on the left side. Inside, there were tables and the counter. You go up, and order.



Let's eat!
I ordered the mix shawarma combo that came with rice, free pita, and two free sides (take note Indian/Pakistani places). The sides I chose were the salad and fries. I used spicy rice, which was what I had used when I went to House of Kabob under their ownership. I paid a total of $10.28 (tax included). The waiting time wasn't long. Just about 6 minutes.



Menu: https://www.facebook.com/3broskababhouse/menu/?p_ref=pa
It has the basic things the Arab places have such as kababs, baba ghanoush, and shawarmas. Interestingly, they have burgers, even stuffed! One thing I saw waiting was a mouthwatering plate of shakshuka that was served to a customer. I guess that's one of the things that you can order, but isn't on the menu.



The Mix Shawarma Plate


The Verdict:
The food was great. The only issue though was that the beef shawarma was somewhat dry. Everything else was full of flavor. They had garlic sauce also, and that was very good as well. The food was washed down with water.
The service was wonderful. The person at the counter is very nice and are the people working there as well.



Conclusion:
3 Bros is a good spot to go for some Mediterranrean food. This would be ideal if you want to have some good Mediterranean food that is near the Galleria. I will definitely making visits to the place more often.



Grading:
Service: 10/10
Food: 8/10
Total: 18/20 = 90% (A)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
3 Bros Kabab House
8586 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas
Phone: (713) 485-0211
Website: none
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/3broskababhouse/
Timings: Mon-Thu and Sat-Sun: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri: 2 PM - 11 PM
Caters: N/A

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

QUICK REVIEW: The Bark BBQ: Halal Texas BBQ is Back!

Establishment Name: The Bark BBQ
Locations: Thursdays: Westchase Farmer's Market (10503 Westheimer Rd, Houston, Texas), and Saturdays at Farmer's Market in Sugar Land
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of Visit: 8/4/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my next quick review! Today I will be reviewing something that was desperately needed in Houston: Halal Texas BBQ! This place is called The Bark BBQ. This is actually the 4th BBQ place that I have tried. First one was Artis La Bonne BBQ back in 2014, second was Hungry Farmer also in 2014, and Chopped N Smoked BBQ last year. Although I never actually went to the Chopped N Smoked establishment, I tried them at the Halal Food Festival at Masjid Adel last year. Sadly, they closed down, and I had to wait until a new halal BBQ place came. Although this was open for a while, it was nearly impossible to try this place because it would always be far from where I lived. Thankfully, I got to try it because it was very near my work. After I got off, I went to try the place.



Let The Experience Begin!
The Westchase Farmer's Market is located in the parking lot of the church. You park the car, and then head to the stall where it is located. DIdn't wait for long, since I had already determined what I wanted to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered a 1/2 plate of brisket. I also got some pickles, onions, and bread. The price? $10 (no sales tax). Very similar to what you expect at Killen's in Pearland or Franklin's in Austin. To wait, I had a nice chat with the people selling. A huge plus is that when you get the food, you get to put as much BBQ sauce as you want. And they also let you take free samples (at least when I was there)



Menu: Very small. Based on their Facebook page, the menu is different on specific days. When I was there, they had brisket, chopped beef, and chicken. Later, they had smoked salmon, and earlier, they had beef sliders. I asked them about the ribs, they said that it is very expensive (which I agree with). They also cater, which is a major contribution to their revenue. The prices are similar to what you would expect at Killen's or Franklin's.



The 1/2 Brisket


The Verdict:
Fantastic. I really enjoyed the brisket and the BBQ sauce. Everything was fresh. Two thumbs up.



Conclusion:
No need to worry about Chopped N Smoked closing. Give this place a try! You'll definitely be able to enjoy some delicious halal BBQ once again!
There are a few things I will say. Do not complain about the prices being high, because BBQ is actually expensive. Don't be the sort of person that would complain about the prices here and then spend more money at a place like Olive Garden or Red Lobster. It's this thing that has caused Chopped N Smoked to go out of business. The owner himself said that he wish that it "had turned out better". Also, don't compare Texas BBQ with Indian/Pakistani BBQ, because each type of BBQ is unique and has different tastes. BBQ sauce doesn't go well with seekh kabab or chicken tikka. If these mentalities go away, then halal Texas BBQ can actually be successful and can last for long.

Grading:
Service: 10/10
Food: 10/10
Total: 20/20 = 100% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
The Bark BBQ
Phone: (832) 282-4927
Website: none
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBarkHalalBBQ/ (They are the most active on here, so liking their page is recommended. I have a picture of their business card. If you want it, you can email me)
Timings: Thu: 3 PM - 7 PM; Sun: unknown. I will find out whether they no longer go to the Farmer's Market in Sugar Land
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

QUICK REVIEW- Shri Balaji Bhavan: Vegetarian again!

Restaurant: Shri Balaji Bhavan
Address: 5655 Hillcroft Street, Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/4/16

Since school is starting to kick in really hard causing major delays in my reviews, I have decided that I will start this thing called Quick Reviews. This won't be as elaborate as my normal reviews, but it will highlight all the major aspects of a restaurant experience.

Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my first restaurant experience for the month of August! Today I will be trying a vegetarian place called Shri Balaji Bhavan. This allows me to compare it to Saravanaa Bhavan which is a few miles away from Hillcroft on Westheimer. I went with my boss.



Let The Experience Begin!
It is located right opposite Busy Boy. The inside was ok. There was a TV playing an Indian Channel.



Let's Eat!
My boss ordered the Madras Thali and I ordered the vegetable biryani and got a Frooti to drink.



Menu: Based on the menu pics on Yelp, the entrees mainly focus on dosas and rice dishes. They do have thalis though.


Shri Balaji Bhavan - Houston, TX, United States. Menu.
Le Menu. Photo Credit: https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/shri-balaji-bhavan-houston?select=R8MeUPb1ZtgEGqcEB_XN1Q


Vegetable Biryani with Raita


The Verdict:
The food was pretty good. My boss loved his thali.



Conclusion:
A solid vegetarian place. I'd come for their biryani again. I wish they would put in some curries on their everyday menu.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 8.5/10
Total: 16.5/20 = 82.5% (B)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Shri Balaji Bhavan
5655 Hillcroft Street, Houston, Texas
Phone: (713) 783-1126
Website: none
Facebook: none
Timings: Mon & Wed-Sun: 11 AM - 9:30 PM; Tue: closed
Caters: Unknown

Feel free to comment below, send me an email, or message me on Facebook!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Monday, August 22, 2016

Staccato's: Great, But Still Couldn't Topple the Best

Restaurant: Staccato's
Address: 11300 Beechnut Street, Houston, Texas 77072
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit:7/28/16


Photo Credit: their website


Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my latest review! Today I will be writing about my experience at another place where you can get halal burgers, Philly cheesesteak, and pizza. This place is called Stacatto's. I first heard about this place from someone who posted about the restaurant on Facebook. I saw the menu and I thought it would be worth trying out. A few months later, someone who knows me personally told me that the Philly cheesesteak he had was better than Busy Boy. That really got me interested in trying the place out. For many years, Busy Boy has been my personal favorite spot for Philly Cheesesteak in Houston. Last year, I said that Sayad took the spot for the best Mediterranean restaurant in Houston that I have had so far. Will the Philly cheesesteak at Stacatto's be good enough to topple Busy Boy? Let's get this going!
My chance to try it came when I finished work early. It was on the way home, and I had not eaten anything that day. So I decided to drop by and give it a try.



Let The Experience Begin!
Stacatto's is located where King's Chicken used to be for many years. I was one of only a few people inside the restaurant at that time. The restroom was out of order. The owner greeted me, and without any hesitation, gave my order.



Let's Eat!
I gave a huge hint on what I ordered in the "Background" section, but I'll say it here in case anyone doesn't understand what I said. I ordered the Philly cheesesteak. It came with fries. The owner asked me whether I wanted it spicy or regular. I went with regular, which is what I get 99.9% of the time when I go to Busy Boy and eat their cheesesteak. I paid $8.65 (tax included) for it. The waiting time was 14 minutes and 5 seconds. To wait, I browsed the internet on my phone.



Menu: http://www.beyondmenu.com/36606/houston/stacatto-s-houston-77072.aspx#group_1318660
Now what's weird is that on their actual website, the menu is on a Word document. It would be better if it was either on PDF or the website itself. Anyways, not only do they have subs, they also have burgers, Mediterranean food, pasta, pizza, and fried chicken. Nice diverse options in one roof.


The Philly Cheesesteak


The Verdict:
Overall, the food was great. The fries were perfectly crispy, and the cheesesteak was also good. However, the cheesesteak was not good enough to topple Busy Boy's for the title of best halal cheesesteak. I felt that there was something missing from this cheesesteak. I also didn't like how the beef was garnished with what I am assuming to be black peppers.



Conclusion:
Stacatto's may have fallen short of Busy Boy, but it was good enough for me to give this place another try. A lot of their food items look really delicious



Grading:
Service: 9/10
Food: 8/10
Total: 17/20 = 85% (B)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Staccato's
11300 Beechnut Street, Houston, Texas 77072
Phone: (281) 809-5837
Website: http://www.stacattos.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stacattos/
Timings: Mon-Thu & Sun: 10 AM - 9 PM; Fri-Sat: 10 AM - 10 PM
Caters: yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fly By: A Tradition Broken

Restaurant: Fly By
Address: 3103 Wilson Road, Humble, Texas 77396
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 7/2/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my latest review. Today, I will be reviewing of a place that offers something that was desperately needed in the Northeast side of town: The place is called Fly By. What is this place offering that was desperately needed? American and Tex-Mex. I know that there are many halal American and Tex-Mex places all over the metro area, but there was only one north of I-10 at the time of the visit. After Burger Gyros Wings on West Little York closed down, there was just a halal burger place north of I-10, a place called Philly Cheese Steaks and Burgers on Rayford Rd east of I-45 in Spring. The area from 249 to I-69 near Bush airport has diversity, but only has just that American place. Mind you, it was only until the opening of the burger place last year that the area between I-45 and I-69 had zero halal American places. I remember my friends who lived in that area always wishing that there would be a halal place where they wouldn't have to either pass downtown to go to Hillcroft or Sugar Land, or have to drive to Spring. A few days before the visit, I got a notification that the place was opened and that it was all the way in Humble. I haven't reviewed a place east of I-45 in a really long time. The only places that I reviewed east of I-45 were Iqra Grill (now closed), and Indian Grill. But this was different. This was east of I-69 at the intersection of Wilson and Atascosita Road. I honestly wondered whether it would be worth driving all the way there for some halal American and Tex-Mex food either from Fred Haas after getting my car serviced, or even from my house. I looked at the menu and was very impressed with the options available (explained in detail below). I actually got the chance to try it when I had to go to a site near the beltway and Highway 90 in the East End. I left early, and headed to the restaurant. With that, it is now official that this is the first ever review to be done for something I had eaten for breakfast.
Now, halal breakfast has popped up over the past few years, but it's been really sporadic. For most of the 10 years I've been living in the US, the only halal breakfasts available in town were halwa puri in some of the Indian/Pakistani places.For breakfast, I would normally go and grab one or two donuts from Shipley's, grab pastries from Panera, or eat an omelette from either La Madeline or IHOP. The first halal non Indian/Pakistani place to have breakfast or even brunch was Nazif's on Fondren with their Sunday traditional Turkish brunch if I can recall correctly. After that, M&M Grill had a breakfast menu for a period of time. They had huevos rancheros and even halal beef chorizo (the only place to have ever featured that). They stopped only a few months later. Then came TG's Cravings (Sugar Land location closed for repair and Cypress location opening soon) being the first place to offer halal American breakfast items. Finally, there is Alcaliente which has some halal Mexican breakfast options. I am really thankful that more halal non Indian/Pakistani places are offering breakfast, since I myself really don't like halwa puri.



Let The Experience Begin!
Fly By is located at the intersection of Wilson Rd and Atascosita Rd. It was really early in the morning, so it was no surprise that I was the only customer. I actually had my mind set at what I wanted to order. I had to decide the night before because I couldn't stay for long and had to be on time for the site visit.



Let's Eat!
I ordered the Super Burrito. The Super Burrito is a breakfast burrito consisting of sausage, turkey bacon, ground beef, chicken, hash brown, eggs, and cheddar cheese on a flour tortilla. Mind you, this place serves no pork and is 100% zabihah halal. I paid $6.48 for it. The waiting time was roughly 7 minutes. They give you a sauce to go with the breakfast burrito.



Menu: http://flybyburgers.com/our-menu/
Wow. Just wow. It's like a little bit of IHOP with the omelettes and pancakes (original only available), a little bit of a Mexican place with the breakfast burritos and the Tex-Mex burritos, and like a typical burger place with burgers. They even have breakfast plates and breakfast sandwiches! It was a very wonderful sight to see. Their wings options were good with many flavors to choose from (not on the menu but it's still available). Now despite all these options available, it all comes down to the taste.



Breakfast Burrito


The Verdict:
To keep it short, put the sauce on top. It made a huge difference. Without the sauce, the burrito wasn't good. The sauce fitted in with the other items, and the burrito was completely different. 



Conclusion:
Fly By definitely has potential to be a great restaurant and to be the main stop for halal American and Tex-Mex food in the northern part of Houston. I will definitely make another trip here and try their burger. But for the breakfast burrito, one major thing have to happen. You have to make your own salsa and then ask when someone is ordering whether they want salsa or not. This is because many people either enjoy with salsa or without salsa.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 7/10 (without the salsa, it would've been a 3/10)
Total: 15/20 = 75% (C)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Fly By
3103 Wilson Road, Humble, Texas 77396
Phone: (832) 644-5007
Website: http://flybyburgers.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FLY-BY-258298214531860/?surface=rese
Timings: Mon-Fri: 5:30 AM - 8 PM; Sat: 9:00 AM - 5 PM; Sun: Closed
Caters: Unknown

Feel free to comment below, send me an email, or message me on Facebook!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed