Hidden off Main Street in New Albany, just steps from popular restaurants like The Exchange Pub + Kitchen, Gospel Bird and Hull & High Water, Aladdin’s Mediterranean Cuisine sits in a quaint business park called Underground Station where it shares a courtyard space with everything from a hair salon to a gun shop.
Inside the small space, the mood is understated, with currant-colored walls, random beer signs, a few flat-screen TVs, and a smattering of tables. The only striking parts of the restaurant’s decor are the church pews that line two walls in the dining room.
But the food is well worth your trip. Aladdin’s (which has no affiliation with Aladdin’s Cafe in the Highlands) is all about Mediterranean cuisine, and it does the food well.
The menu features a long list of appetizers backed by a selection of gyros and sandwiches, with a minimal choice of sides (fries, onion rings or rice).
But the choices are varied and interesting enough that it wasn’t easy to decide what to order.
I met my friend Butch — who had recommended the restaurant to me — for lunch at Aladdin’s. His daughters frequent the place and suggested an appetizer of hummus with beef.
I’d never in my life had hummus with meat in it, nor had I even imagined such a thing existed. So, we went for it.
And rather than get a classic beef and lamb gyro, we both opted for other choices — Butch ordered a beef kebab sandwich, while I got a chicken shawarma sandwich. Butch also ordered a Turkish coffee, a fine idea for a cold afternoon. I got a couple of tastes of the coffee, which was made with plenty of cardamom and had a pleasant, earthy flavor, with minimal bitterness.
The hummus came out fairly quickly, along with a basket of warm, soft pita triangles. An ample bowl of hummus was topped with a layer of finely ground, seasoned beef that looked like it should be taco meat.
We dug in and found that not only was the beef tasty, it paired well with the deliciously fresh and creamy hummus, which burst with citrusy flavor. We ate and ate, until we decided we’d better save a little room for lunch.
Our “sandwiches” came out a few minutes after we decided to take a break. Butch’s beef kebab sandwich was served in a pita shell much like any gyro, and the beef was somewhere between a sausage and meatloaf-like texture. We both had expected slabs of meat, but I got a couple of bites of the kebab, and that beef was absolutely delicious.
The sandwich was filled out with grilled onions, tomatoes and imported pickles, the latter of which are also available as an appetizer, and topped with tahini sauce.
“This is insanely good,” Butch said after a couple of bites.
My shawarma sandwich was actually served as what looked like a very large taquito, wrapped tightly inside a toasted tortilla. The contents included strips of white-meat chicken, tomatoes and the aforementioned pickles.
The star of this show was a house garlic sauce that was not overpowering, just tasty enough to complement the other ingredients.
There are plenty of other dishes to explore on Aladdin’s menu as well, from appetizers such as a kibbeh plate to halloumi, labneh and feta cheeses, and classics like baba ghanoush and tabbouleh.
On the sandwich side, there’s the Aladdin’s steak sandwich, a Mediterranean lettuce wrap, a halloumi cheese sandwich and more.
In addition, Aladdin’s serves wine and beer, plus a selection of coffee, hot chocolate and tea. I’m planning to make the short drive over the Sherman Minton Bridge again when the weather is warmer. My guess is the patio space would only make the food more enjoyable.
Aladdin’s Mediterranean Cuisine, located at 37 Bank St. #2, is open Monday through Saturday, noon-8 p.m.