Thursday, February 25, 2010

Off Boulevard Exploring, Part Two

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.

El Shater
43-02 43rd Ave


  1. I love falafels too but also run into the soggy falafel a lot. I've found that eating it at the place is the best, but free baklava that is hard to turn down:)

  2. So true, Chitra. I looked at your chaat recipe after seeing your serious eats comment, love the blog!

  3. I love El Shater's hummus. So silky and nutty. Their tabbouleh is also so fresh.

  4. I eat lunch here 2 or 3 times a week and always get the same thing. Babaganoush on pita with pickles (egyptian wild cukes and pickled radishes), hot sauce, onion, lettuce, tomatoes tabuleh. And it costs $4.

    The babaganoush is the best you will ever have ever in the history of infinity. I buy 2 lbs of it whenever theres a bbq to attend.

    The falafels are ok, but they microwave them and Managal 3 blocks away has some really good ones fried to order.

    I have usually found shater's baklava to taste stale and I too have been told its made in house so it's kind of weird. But their house made breads are real good and the pies are not bad too.

    They have daily specials too which can be quite interesting. Last week I had a casserole layered from the bottom up with thin lebanese bread, rice pilaf, chunks of beef, veg, and a thick yogurt topping with shaved nuts on sprinkled on top. Served hot it was so good and really unique. Saw it again yesterday so it's probably in a regular rotation.

    Really nice guys there too. But go back for the baba, it is mind blowing. I agree on the hummus too, but for me its the former.

  5. mmmbacon, of course I'll go back for the baba, if it's the best I will ever have in the history of infinity, how could I pass it up? I haven't been back since the post, but it was a really great place and the people were really friendly. I will write another post when I do. Thanks so much!