Saturday, November 12, 2016

Quick Review: Burger Tex Grill: Halal Burgers in Katy

Restaurant: Burger Tex
Address: 17756 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: neither
Date of visit: 9/16/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be doing a quick review of another halal burger spot in town. This is called Burger Tex. I first found out about this place from Facebook while I was in Illinois. I made it a point to come back and give it a try. I got to try it before heading for my old office for some work and Friday Prayer.



Let The Experience Begin!
Burger Tex is located at the intersection of I-10 and Barker Cypress Road in the strip mall where the Firehouse Sub is. Inside, there were tables and a TV playing. There was a significant amount of people there, and the line kept flowing. I read the menu and was ready to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered an 8 oz. cheeseburger combo. When it came, there was nothing but fresh buns, the patty, and the cheese. I then realized that there was a bar where you could customize the ingredients! There were toppings like romaine and iceberg lettuce, regular and caramelized onions, tomatoes, pickles and jalapenos. They even had different sauces like BBQ sauce ranch (personally I don't understand why), thousand islands sauce and the usual ketchup, mayo, and mustard. They even have sriracha. The combo came with fries and a drink. All of this for under $10 (tax included). Great value! I got the burger with mayo, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized and regular onions, and the gooey cheese sauce. For the fries, I made my own sriracha mayo sauce by simply mixing the mayo and sriracha. Think of this place as a cheaper, halal version of Fuddruckers or Elevation burger but with bigger burgers.



Menu: Now according one of the people working there, everything was halal. I also inquired about the turkey bacon, twice actually, and got that they were halal. But after reading online, some people were saying that that the turkey bacon isn't halal, but is cooked separately. On my next visit, I will find out the truth. I just hope it wouldn't turn out to be Turkeygate 2.0 (Turkeygate is a nickname of mine and others about the scandal of M&M Grill's turkey bacon from 2014). Anyways, the prices are great! Nothing over $10 and good size burgers. I'm sold.
According to their website, there is a new menu in the works. It has not been implemented at the time of the visit. When I make my next visit, or if they make an announcement of the new menu on Facebook, I will post it.



The menu (click to view)

The burger, fries and sriracha mayo

The Verdict:
The first thing that can be said is that this is nothing compared to Stanton's, but it beats Elevation Burger in terms of the build your own concept. The second thing was that the burger was pretty good, and filling as well. The fries were also good, and went well with the sriracha mayo (which I made myself)
No complaints about the service. I appreciate the lady for helping me out and clarifying that everything was halal.


Conclusion:
Though Stanton's retains the title for best halal burgers in town, I found this place to be more better than Elevation. This is a place that I could go if I wanted a burger and didn't have the time to make the drive to Stanton's or if Stanton's is closed. I'd still recommend you guys to give it a try!



Grading: 
Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10
Total: 15.5/20 = 77.5% (C)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Burger Tex Grill
17756 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas
Phone: (281) 578-9495
Timings: Mon-Sat: 11 AM - 8:30 PM; Sunday: closed
Caters: Unknown

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bombay Chopsticks: The Best Indo-Chinese Restaurant near O'Hare?

Restaurant: Bombay Chopsticks
Address: 721 W Golf Road, Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60619
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 9/4/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! At long last, I am in September. I definitely have A LOT of catching up to do. Today I will be talking about my trip to Bombay Chopsticks in Hoffman Estates, a suburb of Chicago near O'Hare. I mainly got to go here because I was hanging out with my cousins. We were hungry, so we decided to go here.



Let The Experience Begin!
The restaurant is located at the intersection of W Golf Rd and Salem Drive. This by the way is no way related to the Bombay Chopstix in the Dallas area. Once I went inside, I was amazed. It is such a nice place, considering what most Indian or Indo-Chinese places look like. Think of the ambiance as similar to Mayuri in Houston, but much nicer. It was bustling, and we were escorted to our table. After looking at the menu, we were ready to order.



Let's Eat!
We ordered a total of five dishes: chicken lollipops, hot and sour soup, chicken corn soup, American chop suey, and chili chicken. My uncle paid for the meal. We just sat around and waited.



Menu (click to view): Lunch Menu, Dinner Menu
The first thing that struck me when I looked at the menu was the dim sum, HALAL dim sum. Halal dim sum is such a rare food item in the world (excluding Muslim countries). This is because pork and lard are common ingredients in traditional dim sum.
The only other place that I heard serves halal Dim Sum that isn't a Muslim country is the Islamic Centre Canteen all the way in Hong Kong! My first instinct was to order them and FINALLY get to try it, but it would be a 25 minute wait and we didn't have that much time remaining. Bummer. Anyways, they have a very extensive menu of Asian and some Indian food items. Examples include paneer satay, chicken Singapore style, sliced lamb, and lettuce wraps. Despite the name "Bombay", the restaurant mainly focuses on Asian specialties.  The lunch menu doesn't apply for the weekend. Weird as they are open on the weekend as well.



Clockwise from top left: chicken lollipops, hot and sour soup, American chop suey with chicken, chili chicken, and chicken corn soup

The Verdict:
Man, this place was wonderful! This is also the best Indo-Asian place I've had in America so far, beating Bombay Chopstix in Dallas by a significant amount. It's the third best I've had in my life (first is Grill in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, and second is Ohri's in Hyderabad, India). I use Indo-Asian instead of Indo-Chinese because not all Asian food is Chinese. Everything was of high quality and was really tasty. The chop suey was also good, even though I am not a big fan of the crispy noodles. The food was washed down with water. Overall, two thumbs up for the food.
No complaints about the service. The people were friendly. Special thank you to the waitress who told us that the Dim Sum was a 25 minute wait, otherwise we would have been late to the wedding reception.



Conclusion:
If you want to have some good Indo-Asian food that is not at Devon Avenue or want to have a quick meal before your flight at O'Hare, then you should consider this place a try. I would definitely visit this place again and finally try their dim sum. With the trip over, I am hoping that I get to try other Indo-Asian places like Bombay to Beijing or Aling's in the future and compare it to the food here and the places I used to enjoy in Saudi.



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

Restaurant Information: 
Bombay Chopsticks
721 W Golf Road, Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60619
Phone: (847) 380-5775
Website: http://www.bombaychopstickschicago.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bombaychopstickschicago
Timings: Lunch: Mon-Fri: 11:30AM - 2:30 PM & Sat 12 PM - 3 PM
Dinner: Mon-Thu: 5:30 PM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 5:30 PM - 11 PM; Sunday: 12 PM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes
Takes Reservations

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Al Bawadi Grill: Best Halal Mediterranean Restaurant in Southern Cook County?

Restaurant: Al Bawadi Grill
Address: 7216 W 87th Street, Bridgeview, Illinois 60455
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of Visit: 9/3/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my latest review! After visiting two places in Atlanta, I am reviewing the places that I visited Chicago. The first place is called Al Bawadi Grill, located in the suburb of Bridgeview. Normally halal food is Chicago is associated with Devon Avenue or Lombard, but in Bridgeview, the nickname of the place is Little Palestine. And there lies a cluster of Arab businesses and halal restaurants. Most of the halal restaurants in Chicago are concentrated in Cook and DuPage counties. To be fair, Cook county is really big. Anyways, we came to Al Bawadi because my mom was going to meet a childhood friend of hers from her schooldays in India. After they arrived, we went inside.



Let The Experience Begin!
The inside was just awesome. The atmosphere was really nice, and it meant to look as if you were in the Middle East. They also had a huge table that could seat 10 people under a tent inside the restaurant. Basically, the inside is like Cafe Mawal back in Houston (based on pictures that I have seen of it), but with the tent inside with large tables, a bunch of tables with a TV playing, and no hookah. Seems like the sort of place that I would love to visit frequently if it were to be in Houston. What immediately struck me was the uniforms. The uniform was the traditional dress from Syria/Palestine. An older gentleman with a thobe and kuffiyah was going around offering Arabic coffee (which I took) in the traditional jugs and in the small coffee cups that are traditionally served. I do not remember going to any restaurant in such a long time where it was like this. Definitely a refreshing experience compared to what is the norm at most halal places. After talking for a bit, we were ready to order.



Let's Eat!
We ordered the Mashawi platter, two actually. It basically had all the meat options (shish kabab, kufta kabab, chicken kufta, shish tawook, quail, lamb chops, and shawarma meat), grilled onions and tomatoes served over biryani (not Indian/Pakistani) and saffron rice garnished with parsley and roasted almonds. We got one with the quail and one without the quail. Along with that came baba ghanoush, garlic sauce, pita, picked vegetables with Arab salsa, salad, and hummus. Boy they do know how to feed us lol. There were so many things that I found it hard to put them all on my Instagram pic.



Menu: http://www.albawadigrill.com/menu
This place has a really large menu for a Mediterranean place. They have breakfast as well. They have the regular popular shawarmas and kebabs as well as quail and lamb chops.





Top: The Family Platter. Middle Row from left to right: baba ghanoush and garlic sauce. 3rd row from left to right: pita, Arabic coffee, pickled vegetables and Arab salsa, salad, and hummus


Menu:
Move over Sayad, I've found the best tasting Mediterranean restaurant in America right here! This also means that it's the best Mediterranean food that I have had outside Houston. The food was simply phenomenal. We all were huge fans of the food. The only blemish was that the salad had too much dressing on it. We all drank water and had a nice conversation. Overall, two thumbs up.
The service was good. No problems and the people were nice.



Conclusion:
I definitely see myself going back frequently whenever I visit Chicago. This is a great place to try if you want to try some Mediterranean food. I would definitely put this on top of one of the places that I would recommend to eat at in Chicago.



Grading:
Service: 9/10
Food: 10/10
Total: 19/20 = 95% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Al Bawadi Grill
7216 W 87th Street, Bridgeview, Illinois 60455
Phone: (708) 599-1999
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/albawadigrill/
Timings: Mon- Thu & Sun: 10 AM - 11 PM; Fri and Sat: 10 M - 11:30 PM
Caters: Yes

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bento Hut: A Halal Pan-Asian Restaurant in Northern Georgia

Restaurant: Bento Hut
Address: 349 Decatur Street Southeast, Atlanta, Georgia
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/28/16



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today  will be talking about a restaurant that is popular in downtown Atlanta, and has a huge variety of options available. This place is called Bento Hut. The name suggests that it is a Japanese place, but it offers a lot more than just Japanese food. I will explain in detail in the Menu section. I first heard about this place when they followed me on Instagram. I saw the menu and I was mind blown. Since it was planned that I was coming to Atlanta, I decided to give it a try when I get to hang out with a childhood friend. Fast forward to August, and I was in downtown Atlanta. I went to CNN Center after trying grits for the first time (they were NASTY, one of the worst things I've ever eaten in my life). It is basically where the global CNN headquarters are. I then went over to the World of Coca Cola after walking through Centennial Olympic Park. There, we overindulged on sodas (they have a place where you can try over 100 sodas), where they give you free Coke when you enter, and when you exit. The best memory I have of the trip was when my friend played a prank on me by telling me that the Beverly soda was the best one. It was literally the worst soda that I have ever tried in my entire life. Turns out it's a common dislike among many. We then walked to the car and then drove to Bento Hut.



Let The Experience Begin!
Bento Hut is located near the Downtown Connector. It was a while until we managed to successfully park. Inside, there was a TV playing, and there were tables. We decided to sit comfortably. After looking at the menu, it was time to order.



Let's Eat!
It took a while for me to decide what to get because there were so many choices that I had. I ended up ordering halal ramen- a first for me. I also ordered quail egg sashimi (yes I'm adventurous) and also chicken katsu. Think of it as a halal version of the ramen you get at Jinya. I never had quail egg before, so I wanted to give it a try. I also wanted to try the chicken katsu because chicken katsu is a rare thing (katsu is usually made with pork a.k.a. tonkatsu). My friend ordered a chicken bulgogi plate. I paid between $10-15 (tax included). The waiting time was 15 minutes and 4 seconds.



Menu: http://www.thebentohut.com/BentoHutmenu.pdf
Literally all I can say is WOW. SO MANY ASIAN OPTIONS TO CHOOSE FROM! Not even Houston, New York or Los Angeles has many options. It has from Japanese to Korean to Chinese to Malaysian to Thai options! They even have plenty of sushi and sashimi options available to choose from. I seriously believe that a halal Pan-Asian place that has so many options would succeed in Houston.



Clockwise from top left: Ramen, Chicken Bulgogi with Jasmine Rice, quail egg sashimi, and chicken katsu


The Verdict:
The food was actually good. To be more specific, everything was good except the ramen. The ramen was just ok. The first time trying quail egg was good, and I didn't fall sick from eating a raw egg lol B). The bulgogi was fantastic. Lots of flavor in the dish. We both had water.
The people were really nice, so no complaints about the service. They were also helpful when it came to giving us more time to decide what to get as well as giving out some recommendations.



Conclusion:
Bento Hut was a good way to end my Atlanta trip of trying places. They have items you don't see at halal places in Houston. I certainly wouldn't mind visiting here again and trying some more of their dishes as well as the chicken bulgogi.



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



Restaurant Information:
Bento Hut
349 Decatur Street Southeast, Atlanta, Georgia
Phone: (404) 614-6199
Website: http://thebentohut.com/
Facebook: none
Timings: Mon-Fri: 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM and 4 PM - 10 PM; Sat: 12 PM - 10 PM; Sun: 12 PM - 9:30 PM
Caters: Yes
Online ordering and delivery available

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

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