Thursday, February 5, 2015

Aladdin’s Eatery: Healthy & Exotic Lebanese American Cuisine

Akron Empire is beyond excited to welcome aboard new guest blogger Wendy Voelker! Wendy is a professional events planner, and recently moved to NEO from the Capital Region of New York State (just north of Albany). A New Yorker born and bred, she's slowly adjusting to the Akron-area food scene. An accomplished home cook, Wendy was organically trained in culinary skills by her mom, and is particularly obsessed with baking (usually bread). Her favorite food is hummus, and she is still in search of an authentic NY-style pizza in Ohio. Wendy can also be found at, which she's been writing since 2007.

Aladdin’s Eatery: Healthy & Exotic Lebanese American Cuisine
by Wendy Voelker

I’m relatively new to NE Ohio, and I’m having fun exploring new places to eat around town. I live and work in Twinsburg, so heading to Hudson is a great option for me, both for dinner and lunch. My most recent expedition was to Aladdin’s Eatery in Hudson with my friends Nicole and Francesca. I love Middle Eastern cuisine and Aladdin’s does it right.

Aladdin’s Eatery is based in Lakewood and has many locations throughout NE ohio as well as Columbus, Toledo, and Pittsburgh. In case you were wondering (because I was), Aladdin's Eatery is a separate company from Aladdin's Bakery, located in downtown.

This was the second time I’ve eaten lunch at Aladdin’s. The first time was so good; I couldn’t wait to go back. Their menu is rather extensive, and includes lots of vegetarian and vegan choices, and pretty much everyone can find something delicious on there. There are also plenty of options that include beef, chicken, and lamb. I’m currently experimenting with vegetarianism (and going dairy-free as well), and there were more than enough options to keep me happy.

The Aladdin’s outpost in Hudson is on 44 Park Lane, tucked into the First and Main district, aquaint and friendly shopping area full of restaurants, retail outlets, coffee shops, art galleries, and even a Heinen’s supermarket. There’s plenty of parking available, including a covered parking deck, all free. The inside of the restaurant is open and airy, painted in muted primary colors and filled with tables (I didn’t see any booths). The hostess seated us quickly, even during a busy weekday lunch.

Our server Jason was friendly and attentive, and got us drinks and a starter right away. We requested an order of hummus - because eating hummus in a Middle Eastern restaurant is practically a law, isn’t it? Aladdin’s hummus is as simple as it gets - chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, a little salt. Very traditional. It’s actually slightly more lemony than other hummus I’ve had, which was very pleasant.

At this point, my friend Nicole urged us to get a side of their hot sauce (her favorite), so we ordered some to go along with the hummus. I asked our server if he knew what was in it, and he said he didn’t know. In fact, he said, the hot sauce was the only thing that was *not* made in the restaurant itself - it’s made in their central location, and shipped to the restaurants in large containers. He didn’t know what was in it, but implied that it’s more or less a proprietary formula and that the recipe isn’t shared with anyone. So, little detectives that we were, we examined the little plastic container from all angles and tasted it repeatedly to try to figure out what’s in it. We did everything short of breaking out the electron microscope in our investigation. We are pretty sure it’s a puree of vinegar, banana peppers, some other kind of hot pepper, and spices. Definitely no garlic, and probably no cumin. It’s a delightful sauce, very light with a piquant heat-- not overwhelming, just a nice bite. We mixed some into the hummus, and it was brilliant. Make sure you ask for some on the side with whatever you order.

Nicole ordered the Falafel Salad (for the uninitiated - falafel is deep fried chickpea patty, usually containing a spice mix of cumin, coriander, parsley, garlic, and cilantro). She claimed that she *always* orders falafel, whether it be a salad, a roll, or a pita pizza (at Aladdin’s those are called “pitzas”). Her salad looked fresh and filling, consisting of four falafel patties on a bed of mixed greens with cucumbers, scallions, and sliced tomato and some feta cheese and tahini yogurt dressing on the side. The portions are hearty - she took half of it back to the office for later.

I ordered the Baba Falafel Rolled, which is falafel patties, baba ghanoush, greens, tomato, turnips, pickles, and parsley, rolled in a pita. I had ordered this on my previous visit, but I had to have it again because of the baba ghanoush and the pickled veggies. It’s a perfect sandwich, in my opinion. Earthy spices, peppery greens and puckery pickles, all wrapped up in a lightly (but perfectly) grilled pita. Heaven on a plate.

Francesca ordered the Dawali Rolled, stuffed grape leaves topped with feta cheese, tomato, onion, and Aladdin’s dressing, rolled in a pita. Another fine-looking sandwich. And the made-to-order freshness of the food was confirmed, because Francesca asked for the pickled vegetables to be added, which aren’t normally included. Raves all around - “fresh, authentic, and delicious” was the verdict.

We were all impressed with how fresh everything was. Crisp greens, freshly grilled pitas, everything made to order. Their soups are all large, hearty portions, and are adequate as a meal all on their own. And the prices at Aladdin’s are extremely reasonable - you can fill your belly and be satisfied for the rest of the day for between $10-$15.

As we were leaving, we spied the large and tempting dessert case next to the register. Cakes, tortes, baklava, ladyfinger cookies, and more. Not just Middle Eastern desserts here, that’s for sure. We were too full to try anything, but I made myself a promise to take a piece of something sweet home with me the next time I visit.

Which will be very, very soon.

The Takeaway:

● Lots of locations means that there’s probably an Aladdin’s near you. Don’t squander this

● Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free friendly. And a flyer on the tables indicated those offerings would be expanded soon.

● Order the pomegrantate green iced tea. Unsweetened, but fragrant and delicious.

● If you’re with a group, don’t be afraid to ask for separate checks - this request is always granted, with a smile.

● Make sure to order a side of hot sauce. Trust me on this.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your wonderful review! (Good call with the side of hot sauce. I even use it as a salad dressing!)
    We're so happy to have you as a guest. See you again soon!

    -Samantha Severo
    Aladdin's Eatery Marketing Manager