UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | As a native New Yorker, it will always break my heart when one of my longtime favorite restaurants has to close and make room for another new place. The usual consequence is a default cynicism to anything related to the replacement business. So when the neighborhood generational fave Jackson Hole had to close due to increased rents, I was among the many locals who saw it as a sad occasion.
I, like my Yorkville neighbors, then lamented what flashy corporate food service entity who take over the space. To further self-inflicted disappointment, I found out it would be a combination Mediterranean restaurant and juice bar. The greater irony, to me, being that it was opening smack between an already established Mediterranean restaurant and a popularly convenient juice bar located in the local pharmacy. They are both each my longtime "go-to" places for Mediterranean food and fresh juices.
Until now. After walking by—with lessening disdain—for weeks, I decided to give up my preconceptions and try out the wares at this new, shiny and bright star, Abaleh Mediterranean Grill + Juice Bar. My only complaint now is that I waited so long to visit.
Abaleh is a large, clean, modern-looking space that offers customers the freedom to order of Mediterranean food staples and dress them to their particular tastes. You can start with a falafel, two types of chicken kabobs, a beef skewer, or a shawarma of either vegetable or slow-roasted marinated chicken. On this my first visit I selected the chicken shawarma, having had my appetite whetted by that slowly-spinning block of said marinated chicken sitting on a rotisserie spit, very much evocative of slow-roasted lamb meat for gyros
There then is a progression of three "steps", with allow the customer the choose a type of service—pita, wrap, or platter), house-prepared additions (Greek eggplant, red cabbage, Morrocan carrots, quinoa salad, etc.) fresh veggies (lettuce, tomato, radish, and so on), and sauces/dressings (such as tahini or chimichurri). I chose a wrap for my chicken shawarma, and this personally-customized list of goodies: Mediterranean rice, Israeli salad, hummus, chickpeas, tahini, marinated onions, lettuce, babaganoosh, tzatziki, and harissa).
With the cooked foods prepared in-house, and the freshest of produce to add to any dish, once expertly put together by hand—by any of the enthusiastic and obviously well-trained staff—the final result is a delicious handful of sandwich meal that I know expect to enjoy on a regular basis.
So I wish Abaleh a long thriving success, and find its addition to the neighborhood—and the yummy dishes it churns out to an already welcoming crowd—heart-warming.