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real Moroccan in center city Philly

Just discovered a small Moroccan place named Argan near Rittenhouse Square (on 17th, just up from Walnut). Opened about a month ago - it's the real deal. Menu is modest for now, sandwiches and salads, clearly items meant to look familiar and non-threatening to Americans. But the dishes and flavours are authentic and delicious. I had their Zaaluk sandwich (roasted eggplant), excellent. Very nice young couple on staff, seem to be the owners. I hope they do very well in this neighbourhood with its big lunchtime crowd. Really looking forward to my next sandwich there.

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  1. I was in there a few weeks ago and had the merguez sandwich.
    Enh. I love Moroccan food, but this didn't really do it for me. The merguez were boiled instead of grilled, and I wasn't into the bread.
    I don't know if this makes it more or less authentic - I ate a ton of North African food when I was living in Paris. Since there's such a large North African population there I assume it's closer to authentic that what you'd get in the states, but I could well be wrong on that.

    1. I found the food relatively boring. It's very clean, but my sandwich wasn't very flavorful.

      1 Reply
      1. re: saturninus

        I had the lamb with some sort of chickpea salad (that was for another type of sandwich that they were nice enough to add to mine), roasted red peppers, and tomatoes. It was a bit spicy and very good. I plan on getting it again.

        Come to think of it, the place was spotless albeit we were the only ones there on a Saturday. The owners (?) seemed very friendly and wanted to know what we thought of the food.

      2. I went in yesterday and had the lamb with spicy red peppers, zucchini and white beans. The lamb was tender and very flavorful and the peppers added a nice kick. The pita is different than what I am used to- thicker with a cornmeal?-like texture on the outside- it soaked up the juices of my sandwich nicely. I was very happy with my sandwich- although cannot comment on authenticity.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jerseytomato

          Went back, had the lamb.
          I liked it better than the merguez, but still not convinced. in morroccan cooking i've eaten, they really cook the lamb until it's super tender. some people consider that overcooked; i consider it delicious, and this just didn't reach that level of tenderness. and it's a $7 sandwich.
          if i could pick one cuisine for philly to improve in, it would be morrocan, and this is just too little an addition for me.

          1. re: Bob Loblaw

            We went back this past weekend and I had the lamb, which was juicy and not overcooked at all, along with the chickpea mixture and grilled peppers. It was very good and not nearly as spicy as when I ate it with the red peppers. The others in my group had hummus sandwiches which they thought were ok, but not nearly as good as the lamb, which seems to be my go-to sandwich there. I think when we return they will get the lamb as well, as it was tender and almost tasted like brisket if you ask me.

            I do think the food is not as exotic as it could be, but at least it seems very fresh and is not at all greasy such as what we had at a similar Ethiopian place nearby. The place still had to be one of the cleanest sandwich-type restaurants we've ever been in and the owner has an interesting background in the business: http://www.citypaper.net/articles/200...

        2. Yeah, due to there being 0 real/good Moroccan in Philly some people may think Argan is good Moroccan, but it really isn't. First of all a bunch of the stuff they are doing isn't Moroccan at all, and the merguez is terrible. No kefta? the bread isn't good, and all that fixins bar stuff you see in that case is not in any way what Moroccans put on they're basic merguez/lamb/kefta sandwiches. It's a good bit "Americanized" and at that...still not very good. It's a shame, but Moroccan food might be at the biggest shortage of all great culture foods in Philly. One day????

          1. I've heard bluehensfan mention this place numerous times and I was in the neighborhood today and checked it out. Had the lamb pita. It comes with your choice of 3 vegetables, I had the white beans, zucchini and carrots. The lamb was very tender but I found the sandwich lacking in any assertive flavor or spice, which I had expected from a Morroccan restaurant. The pita bread also has a strange texture, and kind of disintegrated from contact with the warm lamb. Since I've never had a Morrocan sandwich I don't have much to compare to. Lets just say, it was a filling sandwich but nothing that made me say WOW I want to have that again.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rocknroll52

              Uh oh, my reputation is slipping! Maybe I like Argan because I have never had Moroccan food anywhere else? This is a distinct possibility!

              I actually have found that the veggies I get with the lamb affects the outcome a lot in terms of overall taste. Lately I have been getting the roasted eggplant (as from the Zaaluk sandwich), roasted red peppers (which add some zing), tomatoes, and the greens.

            2. I love Moroccan food and lived in Morocco for quite sometime. I think that the best Moroccan restaurant in the area is Little Marakesh in Dresher. It is also a great value, they serve a six course meal for $28.00. The meal is served family style and is eaten Moroccan style with bread and your fingers. The first course is a salad plate that includes several marinated vegetables and Middle Eastern appetizers. The second course is pastilla which is a sweet and savory pie with crisp layers of phyllo dough stuffed with shredded chicken and chopped eggs and covered with powdered sugar. The third course is a whole chicken that is poached with onions, lemon and green olives, it is very delicious. The fourth course is grilled meat, chicken or vegetable kabobs. The sixth course is cous cous with vegetables. The last course is chocolate chip baklava with mint tea. It is an enormous meal. On weekends there are belly dancers. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Montgomery county.

              One point that I would like to make is that having spent a long time in Morocco I never saw pita bread! Moroccans eat their meals with a crusty brick oven bread. These days in the USA it is rare to find a Moroccan restaurant that serves this type of bread. Almost all serve pita bread or a dismal facsimile of Moroccan bread. Consequently, when I go to Little Marrakesh I bring my own bread!


              Little Marakesh
              1825 Limekiln Pike, Dresher, PA 19025

              7 Replies
              1. re: Unkle Al

                Interesting. Where do you get your bread?

                Is Little Marakesh related to Marakesh downtown? They sound very similar.

                1. re: barryg

                  Little Marakesh is not related to Marakesh downtown. It is owned by a Moraccan family locally. I have been eating there for years and have had large parties there.

                  The best bread in the area is a large doughnut shaped loaf of brick oven bread from Taste Of Italy in Springhouse. They usually sell out of this particular loaf early but their other breads are pretty damned good too.

                  1. re: Unkle Al

                    What do you think about Marakesh and Fez downtown? And maybe there are other places I don't know about?

                    1. re: barryg

                      I have not eaten in either downtown place in a quite a while. I do remember that I enjoyed Marakesh a lot. I first ate there more than twenty years ago and a few times since then. It is a nice experience.

                      1. re: barryg

                        Novita Bistro is the only other place I can think of that serves food with a Moroccan touch. I have no idea how authentic they are, but I have enjoyed their homemade sausages and Tangine dishes.

                  2. re: Unkle Al

                    FWIW, I wouldn't call the bread at Argan "pita", altough I see the resemblance.
                    It is a kind of pocket bread, but it's far fluffier. It wasn't completely unlike the bread that I would see served with tagines in the north african restaurants I used to eat at in France. (I've always assumed that those restaurants were more authentic than what you find here, due to the large north african population, although more algerian than morrocan).
                    i like the byob concept ok, when that second "b" stands for "bottle." i don't see going all the way to dresher with my own bread!

                    1. re: Bob Loblaw

                      I agree with the pita comment. It looks like a pita but is much softer and airy even. It tastes a little like sourdough and cornbread. It is not stiff and tends to soak up the juices of whatever you are eating and can fall apart a bit.