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Middle Eastern food in Pasadena?

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I'm looking for a good middle eastern restaurant in Pasadena to take my boyfriend to for his birthday for dinner on a Saturday night. There will be a group of about 8-10 of us. Any recs?

We like Raffi's place in Glendale, but I'd like to stay in Pasadena if I can, so something similar would be great.

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  1. Maybe Sahara Restaurant on E. Colorado? Here's a recent thread:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/78241

    It's been there several years and is consistently good, with standard kebabs and sides. Not a fancy place at all (they do have table service, just not much atmosphere), but if you're just after the chow, it may be your place.

    1. It's not far from Pasadena, but we really like Mediterranean Garden Grill on Foothill Blvd in Monrovia.

      1. Along the same Lines as above .. Lebanese Kitchen up on Washington. I've consistently gotten good food there.. they have great shishk and falaffel. The Chicken is ok.. i can't tell you about the others because i tend to always go back for the shishk. Ambiance isn't super but its much better since they remodeled maybe a year ago? Foods really good though.

        1. I used to think Sahara was good, but then a friend of mine took me to Heidar Baba. OMG, no comparison. Heidar Baba takes the kebab crown.

          -----
          Heidar Baba
          1511 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

          3 Replies
          1. re: stochasticgirl

            Hey, that's great news. I was going to recommend Sahara, too, but now I'm psyched to try Heidar Baba. Sahara is tasty & the best option I've had in Pasadena, but I've never thought it was exceptional.

            1. re: stochasticgirl

              We have been to Heidar Baba a few times now. Each time the service has been horribly slow and very bland. It's been about six months since our last visit, has it improved recently?

              1. re: Kevitivity

                Food still bland. But serviceable, not horrible.
                Also, they keep their air conditioning turned down low so I spent my entire lunch today sweating in our booth and chugging ice water.

                Service still inexperienced. The server looked to be someone's daughter and she nearly spilled soup and salad on me. Poor thing, she was trembling.

            2. I second heidar baba...... It is soooooo good!!!!!! All the food is so fresh and leaves you feeling full, but no heavy. The only thing is, is if you are looking for atmosphere, this may not be the place. It is nice and clean , but the ambiance is " so so"

              1. http://www.cafesantorini.com/

                1. Everyone is a huge fan of that Raffe's Place but i thought it was okay (i think that Pheontica or whatever its called in Glendale on brand is WAY friggin better than Raffe's)... anyway I know its cheesy as hell on the outside, but Atlantis in Pasadena (162 N Sierra Madre Blvd) has really great food and you can get kebab plates that are a mix of all diff kebabs... Anyway people tell me its gets really busy, but everytime i've been there it was pretty slow, but service was good and food is really good. Also Mediterranean Garden in Monrovia is really good, and also Lebanese Kitchen on washington, but for like a bday party i would do Atlantis for sure. warn them the outside is cheesy as hell! haha.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: poshlee

                    This is the first I've seen Atlantis metioned. I want to know more about this place - is it loud inside? What else is good.

                    It looks so weird from the outside, like an 80s timewarp. I had no idea it was Middle Eastern, for example.

                    1. re: cant talk...eating

                      yea i had no idea about it either until a friend took me there. its soooo wacky on the outside, but the inside is cool, i hear that they have a belly dancer on some weekend nights, although i've been on weekend nights and not seen one... anyway they have like a low-key dj that plays pretty chill music in the corner, and its got a nice bar and there is patio dining and inside dining. Anyway its like Greek Mediterranean food,, they have a rediculously good greek salad, spectacular hummus, and all the kebabs are great.... def try it... dont let the stupid mermaid facade fool you. ;)

                  2. Lebanese Kitchen is pretty good.

                    Good Times Pita Kitchen has excellent stuffed grape leaves and decent mezze food (except hummous).

                    Armenian Palace just opened on Villa and Allen, though I have yet to try it.

                    Sahara has decent falafel, but from what I remember nothing else really enticed me. If you want amazing falafel, try Falafel Arax in E Hollywood.

                    1. The only two places that I go to in Pas are Mediterranean Cafe and Zankou Chicken, and these are more fast-food spots than sit-down restaurants.

                      (I have not tried Heidar Baba or any other Persian restaurant in this area.)

                      Pita! Pita! is also pretty good.

                      Raffi's Place, in Glendale, is a family favorite, so I can't compare it with the others mentioned above. I like Mediterranean Cafe or Pita! Pita! for a quick mid-week lunch.

                      1. How about Wahib's?
                        www.wahibsmiddleeast.com

                        Not in Pasadena, but it's in nearby Alhambra.

                        -----
                        Middle East Restaurant
                        910 E Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Wahib's is a good call. Most of the places that are mentioned here are the types in which you order at the register and they call your number/name when it is up - not exactly my idea of a celebration place.

                        2. Sahara: not so good. Heidar Baba and Lebanese Kitchen: food good, but not so nice. Shish Kebab Express: food really good, but not so nice. Which leaves us with Olive Branch in nearby La Crescenta, 3658 Foothill Blvd
                          ., which has killer Persian food and is kind of a pleasant place to hang.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: condiment

                            I agree that Shish Kebab Express has GREAT food... one of the best 'quick' med food places.. i do take out though usually just b/c the place is pretty small and a lot of people who go in there are weirdos. (plus they will also deliver if you are close...or call for 'pickup' so you dont have to wait) Get the chicken plate... ALSO the later in the day you go the better b/c the meat has been marinating longer... and the falafels are grand if you are into them!
                            Zankou chicken of course is great too (diff style but also YUMMY)... and there is a new-ish ...well it just changed owners,, it used to be where Star chicken was.. called Zorbo Chicken or something like that... anyway its almost exactly like Zankou chicken. Its on foothill in pasadena over in the Kabuikis/ Ralphs /Bahama Lanes shopping center.

                            1. re: poshlee

                              I've never experienced more disinterested, to the point of seeming annoyed at having to wait on us, outwardly rude staff than at the Olive Branch, been there twice and lived through it at best, horrible food so bad I didn't even take the leftovers, and just plain weirdly awful experience. I don't normally complain that much about this sort of thing if you've ever ready my posts.

                              Sahara is middle of the road, mild Armenian food, but it's all homemade, and the family that runs it is fun, the older guys that cook it are great, and its fair priced. They do 2-4 groups a night I'd say, and most Thur-Fri-Sat, they get quite busy. The lamb kebobs are a bit salty, but they really are pretty good, and the hummus, baba, taboule, etc. are also at least a B grade (I consider the TJ, Whole Foods products C at best).

                              Zankou, and these other places, like Shish Kebab Express, which is my neighborhood go to for this sort of thing, serve up some nice things as mentioned above, but not a place for a group to go of course.

                              I thought Wahibs was average and almost touristy. Just my opinion. There was almost no one there when I went, maybe it was just bad timing.

                              Armenian Palace has replaced Ceasar's Grill -- if anyone has tried it, is it better, the same, are there new owners?

                              As for Atlantis, I've gone there three times, and no one came out to seat us or wait on us, but I have the impression that it is more like a club? Does anyone know? On my last trip to the airport in a taxi, the taxi driver recommended it highly, but I got the impression it was more for the party than the food.

                              Also, does Heidar Baba serve alcoholic beverages of any type? I guess I ought to call them and just ask.

                              1. re: MaryT

                                Sorry you had a bad experience at Olive Branch. I kind of like the place, especially for simple kebabs and such. And I find the service . . . very Persian.

                                Heidar Baba is strictly halal, and as such neither serves nor condones alcohol.

                              2. re: poshlee

                                I did notice that Star chicken had changed hands. (I wasn't impressed by its dry, overpriced chicken before.) Are they much better now as Zorba chicken?

                                1. re: ozzygee

                                  I didn't like Star much, either, and my short answer would be "no."

                                  The food quality wasn't great -- they weren't very busy when I visited, with product just sitting, y'know? The service was disorganized, and the attitude, while not bad, wasn't really making up for the overall vibe.

                                  But I tried them only a couple weeks after they opened, and always hate to judge places too early (though I have had no desire to give them a second whack yet).

                                  If someone has been more recently, maybe they have a better perspective.

                                  1. re: ozzygee

                                    I actually preferred Star to Zorba. I tried Zorba the other night and will never go back. The chicken was moist, but the garlic sauce wasn't anything as garlicky as Zankou's. The falafel was dry -- I make much better myself. And I threw out most of the hummus and tahini - too pasty. Mine is much better. Must be from a can. Even the pita was dry.

                                    1. re: ersny2la

                                      As a working mother with little time to cook, I dine several times a week at Zorba Chicken, and occasionally use their excellent take out service. If you're into Mediterranean healthy food, this is your place. Contrary to the above reviews, I found the chicken to be moist, tender, and with just the right amount of spice. The garlic sauce is excellent, even than Zangou's. The hummas and tabuleh are prepared just right. Very affordable prices. Highly recommended.

                              3. So today I tried the new "Armenian Palace" restaurant on the corner of Allen and Villa. Very homestyle food. I ordered the following:

                                - Hummous: pretty terrible. too salty, chunky, lacked lemon & garlic (which is more of the Lebanese style of preparation, but still...)

                                - Tabouleh: below average, though not completely bad.

                                - Grape Leaves: plain. not much flavor

                                - Cheese Bouregs: Excellent! flaky, croissant-like crust with gooey cheese in the center. hot. freshly prepared. would go back for this.

                                - Tahn: boring.. not tart enough. no dried mint leaves.

                                Want to go back to try the falafel and a few other dishes.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: adevejian

                                  When did it change from Caesar's Grill and when did it open? Thanks!

                                  1. re: haydn1796

                                    I think it changed quite recently, maybe a week or two.

                                    1. re: adevejian

                                      I posted a review of another Mediterranean place just up the street last week.
                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433239

                                      1. re: WildSwede

                                        I was buying pastries at Vrej next door and decided to try Soumarelo out. I only ordered hummous and it was bland (in my humble opinion the cornerstone to any good middle eastern meal). But I'd still give the rest of the menu another shot.

                                2. I recommend...

                                  Burger Continental
                                  535 S Lake Ave
                                  Pasadena, CA 91101
                                  (626) 792-6634

                                  Great food.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: GingkoCat

                                    If by ``great'' you mean ``basically inedible.''

                                    1. re: condiment

                                      I agree with condiment. This place is a mess.

                                      1. re: adevejian

                                        3rd!

                                        1. re: WildSwede

                                          No not the Continental!!!!!!!!! Try Mediterranean Grille In Monrovia on Foothill just west of Myrtle. ALthough I think they are closed for vacation this week.

                                    2. re: GingkoCat

                                      we've been beating this dead horse on this board for years...sorry, concensus vote still appears to be that BC bites major bigtime

                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403175

                                      1. re: Local

                                        Well, if they would stop serving the same dead horse....

                                        1. re: ozzygee

                                          yeah...pity the poor horse!

                                    3. Open Sesame, of Long Beach, will be opening up a new location in Pasadena soon. There is always a line/wait on 2nd St. Food is very good.

                                      -----
                                      Open Sesame
                                      5215 E 2nd St, Long Beach, CA 90803

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: justagthing

                                        That's great, do you know where it is going to be? Old town? South Lake?

                                      2. Wahib's is good food. Sahara is okay. As for Burger Continental - stay away, that is a bad example of middle eastern food.

                                        1. Thanks for all the help. Last night we ended up going to Heidar Baba. I had never been there, and as the food reviews were good, I checked it out to see what the ambience was like, during the lunch hour. I had doubts.

                                          But as we had 6 people in our group, we ended up sitting in a booth by the window and it was actually pretty nice and perfect for a group our size. I guess they have remodeled and made some improvements. In my opinion, it looked better inside in the evening, as opposed to the daytime. Also, they take reservations. And parking is really convenient - they have a lot in the back.

                                          I had my usual - the koobideh. I usually get the chicken, but as it's not on the menu, I got the beef (I wish they had chicken), but it was good. We had a variety of dishes - the chicken kabob, the soltani (combo of barg and koobideh), the shish kabob and the tahdig. Everything was good. I thought the shish kabob in particular was delish. It was tender and with just the right amount of seasoning.

                                          The service wasn't the greatest. They hardly came by and at first they only had 4 waters out for us. But it wasn't terrible.

                                          At any rate, we enjoyed the food and even the atmosphere was good for what we were looking for. It wasn't loud at all and it was 5 guys and me so I guess they didn't care too much how romantic it was. :) I didn't tell my boyfriend what was going on and he was totally surprised. It was also easier to surprise him because I told the others to park in the lot in the back, while we parked on the street (plenty of parking there too).

                                          Thanks chowhounds!

                                          1. a bit late but for future reference, you need to try Carousel in Glendale, Maroush (my fav.) in Hollywood and Lebanese Kitchen in Pasadena.

                                            If anyone tries talking you into going to Burger Continental, don't do it and run! It's awful and should never be called middle-eastern food.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Joe

                                              you should also never consider the bc recommender your friend.

                                              1. re: justanotherpenguin

                                                Marouch is a solid choice anytime, definitely a destination spot for delicious and authentic Lebanese cooking. My lovely lady is from Beirut and is a stickler
                                                when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine. She loves the place as do I. Their mezze, in particular, is unbeatable.