I’m gonna cut to the chase:
Taboonette is the best cheap lunch in the city.
This tiny storefront in the Union Square area specializes in Middleterranean food, that mish mash of all things Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and North African. Harissa, chickpeas, lamb, pita, and herbs all collide in a cuisine is so cohesive that it seems that it must come from a region.
That region is Taboonette.
Order at the front then wait for your number to be called while seated at one of the long communal tables. The feel is incredibly casual – clean and minimalistic, perfect for a fast workday breakfast or lunch.
The taboon is the large dome-shaped oven that cooks most of the bread and some of the food here. The cauliflower does well in the oven’s heat, becoming crispy and charred in places while turning soft within. It is a wonderful vehicle for the nutty tahini and the creamy hummus. Eggplant is done well here – silky but not slimy, and the rice is outstanding. It must be boiled in chicken broth, because it has a very rich, buttery taste. This dish is satisfying even for a carnivore.
A fantastic rendition of an often greasy and salty classic. This chicken schwarma is rubbed with smoky cumin then grilled to reinforce that deep, woodsy flavor. The chicken is incredibly tender and also tastes of garlic and onions. Mixed with sour pickles, crispy fried potatoes, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and a creamy hummus and tomato mixture, this is just what a schwarma should be. It is na explosion of flavors, textures, and temperatures, all in an almost exceedingly delicious laffa wrap. One of the best parts of the sandwich is right at the end, when the juices from the chicken and the vegetables soak into the soft bread.
Soft patties of grassy lamb and juicy beef cooked until there is still some pink inside. Redolent of mint and fragrant cilantro, it tastes bright and light with the fresh Israeli salad. Don’t forget to top it with some of the spicy cilantro laden hot sauce on the table – you might, as I did, start taking some of the excellent house baked pita chips and just start eating it straight with the hot sauce. These kebabs are only missing some yogurt sauce, as the tahini on them takes away from the complex, subtle flavors of the kebab.
I love that feeling.
Taboonette is a must-go for anyone who loves Middleterranean food. After all, don’t you want to see its homeland? Well now you can, right near Union Square.