Middle Eastern-style cuisine, whether it originates in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq or in between, is almost always satisfying. Yafa Grill brands itself as The Taste of Jerusalem. The rich flavors, a balanced combination of carbs, protein and veggies means each bite can be entirely different, and entirely tasty.
It’s always nice to start with a salad; Yafa’s Special Combo Salad ($7.99) takes it to another level, with a giant scoop of all the tastiest salads Yafa has. There’s Tabouleh, a tangy chickpea salad, baba Ghanoush, a chopped salad with lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes, bright red pickled cabbage, with a generous mound of hummus in the center. It’s smooth, creamy and scoopable with warm pita (from Village Bread Café). Baba Ghanoush, an eggplant spread–similar to the texture of hummus–had just the right amount of smoky flavor to make my mouth happy.
This platter is enough to be a whole meal or an appetizer for the table, or you could split it between two and order a six-piece side of falafel ($2.99). The falafel arrives piping hot, just as it should, with a crispy crust and moist center. Add a little Tabouleh and parsley tahini sauce on some pita and you’re good to go.
Must tell you about Yafa’s Hot Bar. It’s been open for almost 18 months; did you know you can order a full lamb shank, rice and beans and side of veggies for $12.99? The lamb shank falls off the bone, it’s so tender. The meat is gently spiced and sauced in slow-cooked juices with carrots, onions and potatoes–you’ll need the rice to sop it all up.
I don’t want any meat-eaters scoffing at the hot bar veggies. The day I went, there were whole potatoes and roasted eggplant. The potatoes were exemplary; sliced into rounds, roasted and spiced nicely; even a little saffron added for color! The eggplant was cooked down so that it almost melted into nothing. The sides do change, but I’ve been promised they’re always good. But to get the potato/eggplant combo, go, like, tomorrow.
In honor of Tony Stark, I have to mention the shawarma. This place truly has it all, including two large rotating spits–one chicken, one beef. Shawarma is thinly sliced roasted meat with a specific flavor profile, a spice kick and turmeric hit. With Yafa’s mixed platter, you get it all, plus two sides ($12). It’s enough to satisfy an extra-hungry person; those with normal appetites might even get two meals out of it.
Yafa has a trump card: The building used to be a Wendy’s, and it still has the drive-thru! Imagine … drive-thru baklava and lamb shank for all! The only thing you’ll miss are the super-nice people who work inside there and the house-pickled veggies–turnips (made pink from beets) and banana peppers delivered to your table, much like chips and salsa at your favorite Mexican joint.
Finish with a couple pieces of housemade baklava or a slice of honey almond cake. Savor the honey-sweetened dessert as you plan your next meal at Yafa!