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Naf Naf Grill: Exotic Dining on the Cheap

For a quick meal that doesn't feel like the typical fast food fare, give Naf Naf Grill a try.

As you run around doing errands today you will probably get hungry. If you normally stop at the fast food drive-thru for a burger and fries, don’t do it. Not this time.

Try another option that is quick, tasty and a switch from the same old burger and fries.  Rather than sitting in the drive-thru, you will be sitting down to eat, which is a much better and healthier option. Whether your day is jam-packed or as chill as can be, consider stopping off at Naf Naf Grill.

Naf Naf Grill, located in Freedom Commons, has a stylish feel, reminiscent of or Chipotle. It’s a fast food restaurant that has a little more class than the average burger shop.  Yes, you wait in line and you get your own soda. You have a tray and the food comes in baskets, but the ambiance is slightly more sophisticated.

According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, Naf Naf has taken steps to be green, using recycled glass tile, benches made from seeds and high efficiency lighting among some of its design elements. The restaurant has plains to continue being green as it moves forward with a new location on Route 59 near the Fox Valley Mall.

When you enter, menus are available at the door. Making your way to the counter, the items are clearly posted overhead. Not sure about what to order, ask the employees and they can fill you in. You pay for your meal and they give you a pager, though it doesn’t take very long for the food to be prepared before the pager starts flashing.

I’ve visited the restaurant a few times. On my first visit, I chose to have a falafel pita. I had been running around shopping and I was hungry and tired. Falafel sounded like a more exotic meal than what I normally get, a hot dog or hamburger.

If you’ve never had falafel, it may be something you need to try a few times before you learn to like it. Falafel is ground chicpeas and spices formed into little balls and fried. It’s vegetarian, but since it is fried I can’t say how healthy it is, though probably not nearly as bad as a greasy burger. I had the falafel in a pita and it comes with cucumber, tomato, cilantro, onion, hummus (a paste made with chicpeas) and topped with a tahini sauce.  

The restaurant offers a spicy sauce that you can add to the sandwich and it added some kick. Also, small sides of olives and pickles are available for free.

My falafel was great. The pita bread was the best I’ve ever had. The falafel was the perfect mix of spicy and I live for every bite of tahini in my sandwich. The hot sauce added a little heat. The most amazing thing: The sandwich didn’t fall apart on me.

But, if you are on a date, beware! The onion and spices may challenge your breath. So, you had better know your date pretty well and like each other enough that you can ignore each others breath.

My most recent trip I tried the chicken shawarma pita. I added a soda and some homemade fries and some baklava for dessert.

I have never had shawarma and wasn’t sure what it was, so I asked. The employee explained and decided to try something new, though I would gladly order the falafel every time I visit.

The meat is marinated and cooked on a spit, like you’ve seen in a gyro shop. They slice it thinly and put it in the pita with the same mix of ingredients found in the falafel.  Diners can choose to have all of the meals plated as opposed to in a pita.

I enjoyed the chicken shawarma, though I must say I liked the falafel even more. I don’t eat chicken much, which may have been the reason it wasn’t my favorite. But the meat was tasty, not dry and again my sandwich withstood all the toppings and tahini without falling apart.

The fries were a bit greasy, but they were fries so it was to be expected. The homemade fries resemble a home cut potato chip and I thought they were good, though I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be crispy. They were not soggy, just soft. But, I liked them, though I think if I order a side again, I will choose the rice or Israeli salad, which is cucumber, tomato, cilantro and onion with a light dressing.

I also ate one of the two pieces of baklava because I knew this was going to be dangerous. Baklava is layers of filo dough with nuts and honey. The baklava is already out and ready to when you order.  It’s packaged in small take-away boxes. My first bite I wasn’t sure, but it tasted like it had been sitting a little while, which since it is already out and ready to purchase is possible. But after the first bite, I thought the taste was pretty normal. It was all sticky goodness. I took the leftover piece home for the next day.

The prices are nice at Naf Naf. My falafel was $4.99, the chicken shawarma was $6.59 and the baklava was $2.99. Plated meals are more expensive (still reasonable), but come with sides included in the meal. Sides are extra if you order the pita (you can get a soda and a side for $2.49 extra).

If you like something different, a little spice in your life and aren’t afraid to try something new, Naf Naf Grill is a must. I know I enjoyed both of my meals and plan to stop again soon.

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