Went by and checked out the new Ali Baba Grocery and Restaurant on South University the other day. As you might have expected, there are items that have become familiar to us on the menu, such as kebabs and gyros and hummus. There are also strange items such as Fatta and Freekah Soup.
Ali Baba isn't just a restaurant, though. It's a place to pick up all sorts of Middle Eastern foodstuffs and cookware. And it's certified Halal, with a working butcher in-house.
But you're probably far more concerned about how the food tastes -- and you'll discover that -- on the jump.
My companion and I chose a couple of the plate dinners to try out. The Ali Baba plate ($11.99) is a combination of beef kebab, chicken, and kefte kebab with salad and pita and your choice of rice or hommus (I know we're used to it being spelled hummus, but this is still acceptable). The meat had a very nice char on it, and I was quite taken with the creamy hommus and olive oil. Those little purple bits are pickled turnip, which was a neat variation on condiments. Little green olives (pits in) and slices of onions complemented the plate. It was a whole lot of food, and I didn't notice until we were done that somehow the falafel and dolmas that were supposed to come with the plate were never delivered.
On the other hand, my companion seriously enjoyed the Lamb Shish Kebab plate ($9.99) and the tender yet charred lamb that came with. Rice was rather fluffy, too.
No fountain drinks here -- you get what you want from the case, and you pay for it all when you're done in the grocery line. Choices range from Coke and Pepsi in glass bottles to yogurt drinks and the like -- and there is bottled water. No iced tea.
One thing you might want to pick up and take with you -- a box of cookies. There's a pastry case in the restaurant portion of the store full of the little clear plastic boxes with a variety of cookies. Each box is $4.99. In the one we took home, there were Jerusalem cookies, shortbreads, chocolate-hazelnut sandwich cookies, and a marzipan-filled rose-scented almond cookie.
Ali Baba is located across the street from UALR at 3400 South University (if you've been around these parts a long time, inside the old Discount Records location). They're open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. We noticed a lot of UALR students and faculty over there during our visit. (501) 379-8011.