Balaboosta | 214 Mulberry St. (near Spring St.) | 212.966.7366 | | | | |
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ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS of doing PHUDE, as I've mentioned before, is that I offers me great opportunities to literally and figuratively go out of my comfort zone; I get to go to neighborhoods I rarely if ever visit (Boerum Hill) as well as get to eat things I had previously not known were available to dine on (cod milt).

Another reward is being not just able to share with my readers, followers, and fans, but also in person with friends. One such friend is the beautiful, charming, fellow creative, Katie, who first joined me on a visit to Co., where we enjoyed a delicious wild mushroom pizza pie, and, as usual, great company. Katie doesn't eat meat; she's pretty much one of those really health-conscious eaters who kind of make me always feel slightly guilty for not being as dietarily responsible. Which means, luckily, that when I plan to meet her for a lunch, I have to respect her personal culinary design to what I hope will be to my own betterment.

Which is how I decided to invite her to Lower East Side Mediterranean restaurant Balaboosta, whose menu offers a far greater variety of non-"meat & potatoes" options, and that I first heard about from the people behind Taïm—the falafel joint I gave high praises to during last year's one healthy excursion—who opened the far more spacious and comfortable Balaboosta about a year ago.


I always love a menu that boasts food items and ingredients that are new and/or foreign to me, and this menu didn't disappoint. Katie was quickly drawn to a salad of quinoa (the edible seeds of the goosefoot plant), dried cranberries, chick peas, herbs and preserved lemon, while I happily disappointed myself with an order of the patatas bravas, roasted potatoes served with za'atar (a Middle eastern spice mixture) and roasted garlic aïoli.

Quinoa Salad, Balaboosta

Patatas Bravas, Balaboosta

Patatas Bravas & Patatas Bravas, Balaboosta

The quinoa salad was a real treat, the almost-grain having a slightly nutty, almost creamy flavor with a toothsomeness pleasantly just shy of crunchy, complimented texturely by the more savory, larger bites of chick peas, with savory herbs and sweet fruit rounding the corners of each mouthful quite nicely. The potatoes warmly presented first with the aromatics of the roasted herbs, then supplied their own nostalgic charm with the soft, airy interiors, crispy exteriors, and palate-enhancing roasted garlic aïoli.

Both of our interests were piqued by a dish intriguingly called shakshouka, a Tunisian dish of eggs baked in a cazuela, a richly layered and spiced tomato-based sauce, served with spinach and grilled country bread, which became Katie's main dish order.

Shakshouka, Balaboosta

Shakshouka, Balaboosta

Shakshouka, Balaboosta

I decided to go with the merguez (lamb sausage) sandwich special of the day, which came on grilled bread as well with onions and herbed olive oil.

Merguez Sandwich, Balaboosta

Merguez Sandwich, Balaboosta

Merguez Sandwich, Balaboosta

The shakshouka was as rustic and homey as it looked, deep with heartwarming flavors, the baked egg being the texture median between the cazuela's liquidity and the the country bread's slightly charred crust.

The broadly seasoned merguez's flavors delighted my taste buds, from the tip of my tongue to the back of my mouth, and the herbaceousness of the olive oil and sparse caramelization of the sautéed onions countered nicely any gaminess of the lamb's inherent properties while supplying that last bit of moisture to the lamb's more naturally lean meat.

So, it turns out, I did wind up ordering "meat and potatoes" anyway, but for a much more uniquely enjoyable experience. It's kind off like hanging out with Katie, who, unfortunately for New York City, is moving out west in a matter of weeks. Which means I'll have to squeeze at least one more PHUDE date out of her before she leaves. Sharing a meal, a story, and a laugh with her, no matter where we are or what we eat, will always be well within my comfort zone.

Katie A. at Balaboosta

Bun Apple Tea!


Balaboosta on Urbanspoon

Balaboosta | 214 Mulberry St. (near Spring St.) | 212.966.7366 | | | | |