My day began in the dark, musty innards of Humanities at 9:55 a.m. After two discussions and a lecture, I finally emerged at 1 p.m. — eyes throbbing, stomach rubbling and skin devoid of Vitamin D.
Fortunately, my deliverance was nigh in the form of Naf Naf Grill, State Street’s newest restaurant.
Naf Naf promises fresh Middle Eastern cuisine, namely pita, falafel and hummus. The first shop was founded in Illinois, but it has since expanded to Minnesota and, of course, the Badger State. And it was my weak body’s saving grace after my grueling classwork.
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But, there was no immediate satisfaction today; I was met with a 30-minute wait for a free pita sandwich. My determination, however, was not stifled.
My fellow starved students and I meandered through the front doors to the sound of bangers — loud bangers, blasting out from speakers. I mean, it went from Britney Spears, to Miley Cyrus (in her “Party in the USA” days), to Iggy Azalea. While the quality obviously depleted throughout the playlist, it prepared me for the meal to come.
How to order at Naf Naf Grill
If you’re like me, you’ve been overwhelmed and frightened by the “ordering as you go” style of Chipotle. So here is a quick rundown to prepare you:
1. Choose pita or a bowl, and lather it with either hummus or baba ganoush (egg plant based mixture with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various spices)
2. Choose between shawarma — steak or chicken — or falafel
3. Choose your crunchy: chopped salad, purple cabbage, sumac onions or pickles
4. Choose your sauce: tahini sauce, garlic sauce, s’khug (a spicy green concoction that is also my favorite) or fire sauce
I personally selected a pita stuffed with chicken shawarma, purple cabbage, sumac onions, pickles, tahini sauce and s’khug.
The immediate impression is the hefty pita, stuffed to the brim and still warm from the kitchen. As the goodies inevitably overflow, the first few bites may simply be cabbage. While not particularly disappointing, the Middle Eastern spices do not come through with these initial leafy bites.
When you dig through the layers of chicken and tahini, however, the real bouquet starts to come through. The shawarma is packed with flavor — cumin in particular shines — and the s’khug adds a much needed kick. The pickles emerge surprisingly and the hummus provides a subtle foundation to amplify everything.
Overall it was a satisfying and delicious meal, perfect for a quick meal prior to class or a more leisurely lunch on the weekend.
The Naf is here to stay.