I feel a little ashamed to say I'd not been to Al-Rayan in nearly six years, and that long-ago visit was my only one until this past Friday. You see, this quaint Middle Eastern eatery is in walking distance from my house. I've lived in this neighborhood for three years, and Al-Rayan just so happens to have the best Middle Eastern fare in town. What have I been waiting for?
Honestly, I'd forgotten how delicious the food was or I'd have been back a long time ago. Thankfully, I had my reminder this Friday at a dinner meet-up with my vegetarian/vegan besties.
The place is tiny and tucked into a rundown shopping center strip, the same strip that houses an H&R Block, a ghetto corner store, and a not-so-impressive Vietnamese joint. The sign is faded, and you can barely make out the name "Al-Rayan." You kind of just have to know where it is. Inside, a large television plays a station from Yemen, and traditional decor hangs on the walls. There are a few small tables and this adorable seating arrangement on the floor:
I wasn't going to order anything but water to drink, but when my friend Steve's cute little cup of Arabic Coffee arrived, I knew I had to have my own:
This teensy cup of thick, black coffee was unlike any coffee I'd ever had. I've tried other ethnic coffees, and I'm used to the thick, almost-sludgy consistency. But this coffee had a slight floral aftertaste. It was amazing! I wish I knew their secret and I'd make Arabic coffee every morning. Or I guess I could just walk down to Al-Rayan and buy some.
The server brought us a basket of fried pita strips as an appetizer, but I forgot to photograph those. For my entree, I went the traditional route and ordered the #7, a platter of falafel, hummus, salad, pita bread, tahini sauce, and chili sauce:
Besides the usual ground chickpeas, their falafel is also made with ground vegetables. I couldn't tell what vegetables, and the menu just says "vegetables". They definitely had a heartier, more satisfying bite than most falafel I've had. I stuffed the falafel and salad into pita bread spread with hummus, tahini, and chili sauce.
The hummus was also perfection. It was creamy and garlicky in all the right ways. Plus, look at that generous pool of olive oil and the olive garnish!
My friend Lara, who suggested the restaurant, knew a secret about the menu that I wasn't privy too. Al-Rayan also serves a few Ethiopian/Etrian dishes like Ful (mashed fava beans with olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and garlic). It's served with raw tomatoes, onions, and pita bread:
I took a bite, and her dish was phenomenal. I'll definitely be ordering that next time. It's listed on the menu, but it's tucked on the backside and written in smaller letters. There's also a Vegetable Sandwich and a Falafel Sandwich, both wrapped up in a massive pita wrap. Needless to say, there's plenty for vegans at Al-Rayan. Plus, the ladies who work in the place are the nicest people ever. And I got my falafel spread (enough for two meals) and coffee for only $8!
Al-Rayan is located at 288 N. Cleveland. Call 901-272-0227.