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Eat Like an Egyptian

May 8, 2018

This could have been The Bangles week if yesterday I had the forethought to entitle the post, “Manic Monday”. I think that could have worked. “In Your Room” seems like a perfect title for a post about Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. And I’m sure I could work out something with “Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Eternal Flame”.

Do you know what I know about Egyptian food? Just about nothing. My old friend Bill once went to Egypt and he came back thirty pounds lighter. He ate some bad fish, and for a moment thought he might die in an Egyptian hotel.

It may have been unpleasant at the time, but when Bill came home, he looked great.

If the two of us were still talking these days, I might be able to ask him about the food he ate before he got sick. But so it goes.

For whatever the reason, Egyptian food hasn’t quite captured the hearts of Americans like Ethiopian food has. There is a great clamoring for Ethiopian cuisine in the Capital Region. But I’ve never heard anyone ask about Egyptian.

Lo and behold, there has actually been an Egyptian place hiding in plain sight.

The only reason why I know Koshari is the national dish of Egypt is because that’s what it says on the menu at Bon Appetit Cafe. It’s a weird and wild place. I’ll let you read all about it here, if you like.

What I can tell you is, I’m glad I ordered this strange mix of rice, lentils, macaroni, fried onions, chickpeas, and spiced tomato sauce. But this almost didn’t happen for a long list of reasons.

For starters, I never would have found this place on my own.

Emily L., who has been writing some guest posts on the FLB, thought we should go out to lunch. Naturally, I thought that was a great idea. As a relatively new transplant, she’s still in exploring mode. So instead of starting our project to convert her away from flavored coffee, she suggested a little place on Wolf Road that caught her eye while perusing Yelp.

Amazingly, I must have passed over this listing dozens, if not hundreds of times. It’s a reasonably priced, casual place on Wolf Road that has well over a four star rating. Yet, somehow, it never seemed to piece the filters of my conscious mind. Perhaps, because it seemed like a run of the mill lunch counter, without anything truly special or unique to offer. You know, just another generic spot for simple sandwiches, and maybe a salad, that was a good deal for the quality served.

Still, when seeing Koshari on the menu, I hesitated to order it.

Believe it or not, but sometimes I overthink things. There were a few reasons not to try the Koshari. For starters, not one single Yelp review mentioned it. All of the love for the place had nothing to do with this Egyptian classic. And that was concerning.

I’ve also learned to try and order with my eyes and my nose when at a counter style restaurant with an open kitchen. What looks good. What smells good. Take in those sensory cues, and let those guide your decisions.

On the plus side, there were some crisp and bright vegetables in the salad bar, a burger frying on the griddle, and a spit spinning a hunk of gyro meat. Of concern was the prominent location of a microwave, and no visual confirmation of the components of Koshari.

But curiosity got the best of me, and I went with the one dish not like the other ones.

Many times this doesn’t work out, like if you’re going to a restaurant where everyone orders the barbecue, and you decide you’re in the mood for fish. There are times to zig when others zag, but rarely is one of those times when ordering food.

Happily though, in this case it worked out. Yes, the rice and lentils were warmed up in the microwave. And that’s a minor tragedy. It did have an effect on the texture and temperature of the dish. However, it was still delicious.

You could say that this doesn’t sound much different than mujadara, and you would have a point. But adding chickpeas, macaroni, and the spiced tomato sauce totally changes the dish. Think about the small subtle changes in cocktails that transform one drink into another one entirely. The same factors are at play here.

My hope, is that if I tell enough people, Bon Appetit Cafe can start doing enough volume on their Koshari that they can keep a fresh, hot batch of their rice and lentil blend hot on hand all the time. Because that would make something good even better.

In the meantime, as far as I know, this is the only place to get it in the Capital Region.

Thanks again to Emily L. not just for her past—and hopefully future—contributions to the FLB, but also for getting me out to this hidden gem on Wolf Road which introduced me to an entirely new cuisine.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. -R. permalink
    May 8, 2018 10:49 am

    But, the koshari is the only strictly Egyptian dish on the menu – beyond that, it’s a fairly pedestrian menu with a Levantine angle. Since I know nothing about Egyptian cuisine either, a quick glance at the wiki page on the subject reveals a smorgasbord of dishes I’ve never heard of. While owned by an Egyptian family, the inclusion of merely one traditional dish doesn’t make the Bon Appetit Cafe an Egyptian restaurant by any means – it needs more than one dish to qualify in my mind…

    Now if you’d like to talk about Filipino restaurants, the Collar City Cafe can certainly claim authenticity (despite its mixed menu), and is the only Filipino restaurant in the Capital District. Every Filipino dish I’ve tried there has been very good.

  2. Mike permalink
    May 8, 2018 11:08 am

    Well, if you are looking fore more Egyptian food on the menu you should look at the Falafel, chicken feta platter with the brown rice, grape leaves (beef or Vegie) and koshari which is made fresh on Thursday, most of the time none are left for Friday if you come in Friday to ask for it!
    The great thing about this place is it is accommodate a mixed crowd and you can order your regular style of food or Egyptian or middle eastern for gyros.
    But the most amazing thing about this place is everything is home made, the chef makes everything by herself, so it is unique and delicious.
    I am glad you liked it. And since it is a cafeteria I don’t think it can be just an Egyptian place but a mix.

  3. chrisck permalink
    May 21, 2018 6:03 pm

    Seriously — where the heck is this place? Today I drove around 80 Wolf Rd., in the back, and had no clue as to where it was. I’ll try again the next time I’m in that area, but this was frustrating.

    • Mike permalink
      May 22, 2018 10:23 am

      Chrisck – Go in the back, park your car then go inside the building, as soon as you walk in from the back entrance you will see it. or you can go from the front entrance which have NBT bank and follow the hallway down and you will see it. There are no signs outside so it is easy to miss if you don’t know that!.

      best of luck

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  1. Eat Like an Egyptian — FUSSYlittleBLOG – The Blog of King-Galaxius

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