by Lauren Winter
Food boxes from faraway lands carrying cans of olives and tomatoes are wedged underneath benches for seating, and a shelf near the door is stuffed with an assortment of grocery items normally found at an international market. Smells of lamb, feta, and spices linger in the small space, and gold National Geographic covers line the walls as makeshift wallpaper. Al Salaam Deli is a taste of the Middle East, wrapped in a tiny package on Habersham and 40th.
Al Salaam has been serving customers for over 15 years, and by now the owners, husband and wife duo Meqbel and Rose Salameh, have the routine down pat. When walking in, there is a laminated menu to your left with a small counter nearby. Decide what you’d like and order at the counter. Grab a drink from the cooler and take a seat; your food will be brought out to you. If you’re eating in, don’t worry about paying until the end of your meal.
The place is so small, you can watch the cook prepare your order from the seating area. It’s a popular lunch spot, so expect a wait around noon.
For under 8 dollars, order the falafel or gyro wrap with fries and a can of soda. The gyro wrap is stuffed with grilled lamb, tomatoes, and spices. While the pita bread isn’t made in-house, it’s soft, fresh, and warmed on the grill. Falafel is ground chickpeas and spices rolled into balls and deep fried, with a satisfying crunch on the outside with a tender inside. The falafel wrap? It’s my favorite meal at Al Salaam.
Some purists complain that the tzatziki sauce tastes more like ranch than the traditional Greek accompaniment they’re used to, but I’m unphased – to me, it’s delicious. When paired with falafel, the sauce is essential, flavorful.
A surprising hit on the menu is the cheeseburger. It has a classic, backyard barbecue taste that even most American diners can’t get quite right. Also worth a mention is Al Salaam’s flaky and sticky-sweet baklava, a time-honored Middle Eastern dessert filled with honey.
While Al Salaam isn’t a fancy place, they do offer high-end platters, like Chicken Tikka, for a bit extra. All platters include a generous serving of salad and baba ghanoush, seasoned eggplant that is mashed and bears a similar consistency to hummus (also great for dipping with warm pita bread). For around 15 dollars with a drink, platters offer a filling meal and a healthier alternative to fries and wraps.
Al Salaam Deli, located at 2311 Habersham Street, is open Monday-Saturday from 10:30 to 8. Call 912.447.0400 with questions or to place an order.