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Oran Cafe - East Boston...a Moroccan Angela's?

j
jbowen1519 Oct 24, 2008 04:54 PM

I went into Oran Cafe because I have been hoping that the sizable Moroccan community in Eastie would open a restaurant soon. Some locals might remember Beni's on Meridian St that was only open for about a year but would serve off the menu Moroccan food. Unfortunately, Beni's closed but it seems that Oran Cafe could be the authentic Moroccan restaurant that some have been waiting for here.

Right now it seems that they only have a daily specials off-menu where they make about 3 - 4 family recipes for lunch and dinner on any given day. Today it was couscous with bone-in beef or lamb, fish soup, or one other item that I don't want to try and spell here. I had the couscous and it was really quite fantastic. It was enough food for two people, with a large piece of beef as well as seasonal vegetables (zucchini, sweet squash, and a potato type thing that seemed a bit like a yucca). The sauce had some unique flavors that might have included saffron. The entire plate was $12.

The owners said they only use organic halal meat which they get from a local farm in Tewkesbury. They don't use any frozen or canned products - everything is as fresh as it can be. They also have Moroccan mint tea and arabic coffee, along with some excellent espresso/cappuccinos.

I got the same feeling there as I got when Angela's first opened their doors: family-run restaurant with multiple generations working; only the freshest ingredients; unique and personal recipes; as well as the authenticity of people merely operating a restaurant because they like to cook food and feed people.

Another interesting thing is they seem to cater to more than one group (just like Angela's). They have the American breakfast crowd of old-time residents, a lunch and coffee crowd of Moroccans and Algerian workers;, and a small but hopefully growing nighttime crowd of curious new yuppie residents.

I am looking forward to trying more of their dishes and am glad to see that there is another unique ethnic restaurant in East Boston. I would be interested to know if other people have tried Oran yet and what they thought about some of the other dishes they have.

  1. j
    jbowen1519 Oct 24, 2008 04:55 PM

    By the way, the location is at the corner of Bennington & Marion St which is probably closest to the Airport T station.

    1. StriperGuy Oct 24, 2008 07:00 PM

      Way cool, nice find. Serious hounding, eager to give it a try.

      1. Eatin in Woostah Oct 25, 2008 06:23 AM

        What an exciting find! We'll try to get there for a late lunch today and report back.

        1. hiddenboston Oct 25, 2008 11:14 AM

          Excellent find! Thanks for the info. I could spend weeks in Eastie checking out all the hidden gems around there...

          1. StevieC Oct 25, 2008 12:19 PM

            I am very happy that I read this post this morning. We go to Kelley's Square Pub quite regularly, and have watched the building across the street undergo various renovations for some time. Based on jbowen1519’s description of Oran Café we sought it out for lunch today, and were shocked that it is actually located in that building, so it must be quite new.

            This is a quintessential ‘hound spot. I can’t describe it any better than jbowen1519 did. We were greeted at our table by Hannah (sp?), who asked us – quite surprisingly – “what would you like?” She apologized for not having a menu, and described the couscous, fish soup, and a ground beef/tomato-pepper sauce dish, and also offered to cook whatever we might like to have. We went for the fish soup and couscous, both of which were outstanding, and she brought us a small plate of the beef dish to try, which was also outstanding. We had the mint tea as well, which added to the feeling of authenticity that permeated the entire meal. The total bill was $20 (?!?! – we felt like we were robbing them).

            The space is nothing remarkable, which Hannah also apologized for, but we assured her that food was our interest. She asked us how we found out about them, and we told her about Chowhound, which she was not familiar with but was quite happy to hear that kind words were written about them. The whole time we felt like we were in somebody’s home, with a host sharing dishes that she took pride in. Despite being fans of Kelley’s for what it is and the local flavor that always occupies the bar, the addition of Oran Café to the landscape now changes things. “A Moroccan Angela’s” is an excellent description, and I predict that there will be many CH posts in the future.

            1. f
              fredid Oct 25, 2008 06:44 PM

              I must have just missed you, SC! I stopped in for a quick peek, and got a delicious "crepe" with peppers, other veggies, and spices, as a quick bite on my way to lunch elsewhere.

              A few of us will have an early dinner tomorrow around 4:30, and any are welcome to join us. You're welcome to call Hanan, at 617-567-1900 and ask her to throw an extra dish - maybe whatever she has and recommends? - onto the table (She knows me as Fredi, my non-screen name!) (Mods - This is all from my visit this PM - I have no connection with them, except as a diner!) We asked her for the couscous and chicken, and will be happy to share anything else.

              She said she'll have the couscous on Fri and Sat, along with other things, and various things on the weekdays, and anyone is welcome to call ahead if they're interested in something particular.

              As others have said, very homey (well, not in decor) or, as we say in Yiddish, "haimish"!

              9 Replies
              1. re: fredid
                f
                fredid Oct 25, 2008 07:37 PM

                Just to add directions from the T - Go to Airport stop; if you're coming from own, cross over the tracks (you can do this either before or after you go through the exit gates); exit the station on the inbound side and keep going straight ahesad and out of the park (1-2 min.). You'll be on Bremen St. take a left on Bremen and go one block to Marion, take a right, and Bennington is a few short blocks ahead. Cafe is on your right, on the corner.

                Driving - see Angela's directions under Places/Restaurants drop down menu above and use Google for exact corner.

                1. re: fredid
                  f
                  fredid Oct 26, 2008 07:02 AM

                  For Sunday 10-26 (I'll remove after!)

                  One more clarification: If you'd like to join us and see this before 2 or so, when you call the cafe (# above), would you say that you're "one more joining Fredi's group" and could she add a bit more to the order? Since it's last minute, it would be nice to tell her that we're open to anything she recommends and has on hand, and that we like interesting, unusual, spicy (whatever) food...Thanks!

                  If it's after 2 when you see this, and you'd like to join us anyway, please feel free - One can never go hungry in Eastie - If for some reason, we run shor on food, there are plenty of spots to fill up!

                2. re: fredid
                  j
                  jbowen1519 Oct 28, 2008 08:54 AM

                  What happened with the 10/26 chowdown? I remember having this amazing chicken the first time I had Moroccan food in Washington DC and I would love to know if Oran can make something similar.

                  1. re: fredid
                    f
                    fredid Oct 28, 2008 09:55 AM

                    Four Chowhounds made it to Oran for an early dinner on Sunday. (It turned out the other couple eating there - who I had assumed weren't CHounds, as I had made an open invitation to join us - were from the board, too (and thanked you, jb!) They loved their meal, and promised to get screen names and post.)

                    We had their chicken with olives, couscous with veggies and some beef, lamb with..(help me out, fellow eaters..), a simple salad with tomatoes and..., and a cold spinach side, and found it to be simply prepared, "comfort food".

                    We also had a light, delightful dessert of "crepes" soaked with honey, just a nice touch after a filling meal, and mint tea. (The mint tea may have had caffeine....!)

                    AND, galangatron heard Hanan (who's the cook and proprieter (sp?), along w/her Mom and
                    husband) bring out some harissa (a Morrocan condiment) to the other couple. When she brought some for us, she warned us it was "hot", and, boy, was it ever! (And I eat "ma la" style in Flushing Chinatown.) Dr. JimBob and your fellow hotheads, I heard your name being called!

                    She will make a bastilla if you call ahead, which we're planning on trying!

                    I was so enthusiastic with Hanan earlier in the day, that I'm a little embarrassed to ask her - but maybe another intrepid CHound will! - if they could also prepare dishes in a spicier or more complicated way then these simple preparations....That harissa told me they may be holding back for us "gringos" (I know, wrong culture! But what's the equivalent?) It would be lovely to see them deepen and broaden their offerings!

                    About the menu - They're working on the fly, and Hanan said she'll print up menus soon. They've already decided to offer couscous every day...She has also said she's happy to take requests for particular things (like the bastilla or anything else) - The number is earlier in this thread. Finally, she said vegetarians should just call ahead, so that she can cook their food with a non-meat broth...

                    Hope to hear from others dining there! And fellow Hounds fom Sunday's dinners, please fell free to add on...

                    Whoops! I forgot to add that all that came to $12 each, including tip!

                    1. re: fredid
                      t
                      Taralli Oct 28, 2008 10:54 AM

                      The lamb dish had prunes and toasted pinenuts with it. Really liked the soft zucchini, squash, carrots, etc. in the couscous, which also had some beef. There were roasted potatoes with the chicken and curry-like spicing. Would like to try the fish soup next time. The salad was diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, ?parsley w/olive oil. The dessert crepe was really more of a thin pancake vs. a French crepe to me & comforting. The harissa was absolutely incendiary! Lurker couple, who we really enjoyed chatting with, left with a load of take out items for a surprise for a friend. Do register and add to this thread.

                      1. re: Taralli
                        galangatron Oct 28, 2008 01:11 PM

                        the harissa was homemade. which is why i requested it. lots of chilies, garlic, and lemon juice

                        dessert was beghrir (thin spongy pancakes soaked in honey and butter). light, fluffy, and a nice end to a heavy meal

                        hanan told us they'll be adding more sweets (svinge, m'semmen, briwats) and a salmon tagine to the menu soon. eager to return and try the special order b'stilla

                        1. re: Taralli
                          l
                          La Platanera Oct 31, 2008 12:07 PM

                          I love being called "lurker couple"! The chowhound team we met at Oran motivated me to get a username here on chowhound and post. My husband and I were the ones dining there the night you were doing the chowdown and met you on our way out. We love using chowhound to read about what's new and hot and Oran is one of the places we found through the posts. Oran is definitely worth the trip. Food was phenomenal. I loved the prunes in the lamb dish. The harissa was fierce; luckily the owner warned us to use sparingly. The Moroccan pancakes she served at the end were a surprise dessert and they were simple and lovely with just a bit of honey on them. It was fun to meet you all and I'll be watching you to see what new places you uncover!

                          1. re: La Platanera
                            yumyum Oct 31, 2008 12:59 PM

                            Welcome out of hiding and be sure to let US know what YOU uncover!!! It's great having new posters on the board. We oldies get stale.

                            1. re: yumyum
                              hiddenboston Oct 31, 2008 01:27 PM

                              I agree. It would be nice to hear about some unknown places from newbies, that's for sure!

                    2. a
                      Ab Goosht Dude Nov 13, 2008 04:50 PM

                      Just wondering,
                      Why a Moroccan restaurant would
                      name itself after an
                      Algerian city...?

                      Anyone ?

                      The Dude
                      Genus - Ab Goosht -

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Ab Goosht Dude
                        galangatron Nov 13, 2008 05:04 PM

                        was equally puzzled and asked hanan about it at the chowdown. she said her husband is from algeria

                        1. re: galangatron
                          hiddenboston Nov 14, 2008 03:03 PM

                          Just an FYI that the Oran Cafe has been shut down for now because they failed inspection. Not sure when they are going to re-open. I was hoping to go there once I returned to Boston (I'm in Chicago for awhile); hopefully they can get things resolved there soon...

                      2. f
                        fredid Nov 15, 2008 05:30 AM

                        Great review in Eastie Times! http://www.eastietimes.com/ (nice mentions of CH and Angela's, too)

                        After a week or so, try this: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572425 (without a pic!

                        )

                        Also, of course, there's another great review in the Phoenix, this past week.

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