201 City Line Ave, Merion Station, PA 19066
Situated directly across from St. Joes, parking is a challenge, but I am from this hood, and knew the side streets generally had lots of turnover from students, so snagged a spot on Stoneway.
Formerly a drug store, this was briefly an outpost of Manyunk’s Greek Smiley’s. For the better part of the year, it appears to be thriving as a Middle Eastern / Halal place with half the menu devoted to good old Yankee burgers, wings, fingers, wraps, salads, hoagies and Philly Cheesesteaks.
Having perused the menu recently, I was intrigued by the mashup that manifested itself as a LAMB cheesesteak (with everything.) As I brought along an authentic Middle Easterner as my LDC for the afternoon, Azi Gera was pressed into service to verify the authenticity of the falafel..
We decided a communal approach was best in order to maximize sampling and analysis. In addition to the lamb cheesesteak, we ordered four falafel, curly fries and the “New York Chicken.” For those of you unfamiliar with the latter dish, it is a Manhattan mainstay from Wall Street to Uptown. A Styrofoam container packed with salad, seasoned rice, and meat (generally spiced chicken or lamb) drenched with white sauce (and a hint of red a sauce as well.) Middle Eastern food fans will immediately assume yogurt / tahini sauce when they hear “white” but this is an Americanized concoction based on Mayonnaise and special seasonings. It works well binding everything together. One order of this should satisfy two pretty hearty normal appetites.
The greenish falafel were OK… Azi can weigh in more deeply as I am not personally a connoisseur of that particular side. We agreed the curly fries were middle-of-the-road. They would have been better dusted in potato flour or cornstarch for some extra texture. Actually, a sprinkle of salt would have helped, but since I forgot to take my Lisinopril this morning, I didn’t bother to seek any out.
The Lamb Cheesesteak was kind of salty to begin…. “with everything, in this context, means onion, pickles, sweet peppers, hot peppers, ketchup and mustard. This is essentially schwarma meat (and very good lamb… little crispy flecks throughout) on a hoagie roll. I hadn’t figured out why it was so salty, but Azi reminded me that this was Halal .. Aha !! Aside from that, though, it was really good. All the ingredients made the whole a greater sammie than their sum.
Al-Sham will be somewhere in the rotation, especially when the shwarma/kofta/kebab craving strikes. It is a WHOLE lot of food for the money. The variety is such that you could satisfy Jews, Arabs, Greeks and WASPy little kids all in one place. For that alone, they deserve respect.