There is not much, if any, Middle Eastern food along the 7 train route that I have chosen. Sad, but true. There happens to be, however, in Sunnyside, a magical grocery/halal meats/bakery/take-out/catering place called El Shater, a block away from Queens Blvd on 43rd Street and 43rd Avenue.
As soon as I walked in, I fell in love. It's small, and dark, and the shelves are not filled to capacity, but there are things to buy that I never imagined I could find so close to home. Hookahs and hamsas and hummus. Fruit and nuts. House-made labne, spices, and olives! Oh olives, you are so wonderful.
I ordered a falafel sandwich. For $3.50! The man behind the counter was incredibly friendly. Behind him, the back counter area was covered with half sheet pans full of all sorts of fil0 goodness. Baklava is always a good place to start, so I decided to get a piece, just to see if it was any good. There was a choice of pistachio, walnut, or cashew. I chose walnut, of course (that's the kind my mom makes). Then he threw in a cashew piece, "on me, so that you come back soon". I was already in love, but free baklava pushed me over the edge. It doesn't take much to make me happy.
I got the food home and unwrapped the cylindrical foil package to find this -
Here is a cross section
By the time I actually ate the sandwich, it was no longer warm, and the falafel was a bit soggy. But. The pita was thin and chewy, the sandwich held 4 large, loosely packed falafel balls, chopped lettuce, tahini, hot sauce, and then the best part: thin strips of bright pink pickled turnip, and long slices of pickled cucumber. Each bite had a perfect ratio of sour, spicy, salty, soft, and crunchy.
Next we come to the baklava.
It was flaky and still crispy, wasn't drenched in syrup. I am not a big fan of overly sweet baklava, and this one was fairly dry, with the flavor of the nuts really coming through. The very nice man also mentioned that all of the pastries are made in house, and I believe it.
Total cost of meal: $5. Free baklava or not, I'll be back.
43-02 43rd Ave