BY JOHN ENGER
Cafe Aladdin is pretty much about the gyro.
Itâ€™s not about the ambiance or the eclectic clientele. Itâ€™s not (to use some pretentious wine critic terminology) a full-bodied experience. No, Cafe Aladdin is not a romantic little nook or a Greek/Middle Eastern oasis of cultural integrity. Itâ€™s just an empty deli â€” but they make a great gyro.
Cafe Aladdin, located on teh corner of 6th and Broadway,Â must not be a very popular destination. At 5:30 p.m. on a Friday there were no other diners and no one came in or even walked past, looking in the windows, thinking about coming in, for the space of about 30 minutes â€” the length of time it takes to order, receive and consume a gyro.
Looking around Cafe Aladdin, itâ€™s not hard to explain the lack of customers. There is a supreme coldness about the place. The floor is black-and-white checkered linoleum, most likely left over from a barbershop. As is expected of a restaurant bearing the name â€œAladdinâ€ there are a few genie lamps. But there is no unified theme. Someone did make an effort to warm the place up â€” painting the walls a bright playschool yellow, which would have worked had they chosen a paint even two shades closer to orange. Even a little up-beat music would help, but the only sound is the aggressive hum of the backroom refrigeration unit.
The service was good. The only visible worker, a painfully quiet 50-something with a potbelly and black curls slicked straight back over a recently established bald spot, took the order and payment at the counter and managed to bring food out to the table in under five minutes without ever moving faster than a bear on a warm summer day.
The gyro was not unique. It had the warm flat bread, the extravagant piles of lamb, even the checked aluminum foil wrappings one might be able to acquire at a county fair. But Cafe Aladdin is just a little better. The lamb was spiced to perfection â€” earthy, as is the nature of lamb, while maintaining a delicate quality that feels natural and not too salty. It was not exactly cheap. About $10 buys a gyro and Coca Cola plus the tip. The price seemed pretty high when handing over the bills, but well worth it when biting into the sandwich.
In all, this is a good place for those in the mood for a gyro for lunch. It is not an ideal place to take a girl on a first date. There is no graceful way to eat a gyro. Awkward pauses will be amplified by the lack of music, and any good night kiss that may, but probably wonâ€™t, occur will taste of garlic.
To read more from this writer, view his blog at blockplane.blogspot.com