The Secret Within The Chicken Beiruti At Baba Ghanouge
If there’s one thing downtown is lacking in, it is gross (and I mean that in the best possible way) mash ups in sandwich form. The last place I expected to find such a thing was at Baba Ghanouge on Church St. (btw. Chambers & Reade), where their tagline is “Eat Healthy Live Longer.” Even the healthiest people like to put crappy food in their bodies sometimes, and for that purpose there is the chicken beiruti sandwich. It contains a secret ingredient that elevates this sandwich a few notches and almost makes you forget you’re eating in a place that’s trying to make you healthy.
A former downtown lunch’er checked in with Baba Ghanouge last year after it took over the space from another mediocre shawarma and falafel place called Mixed Grill. He tried the lamb shawarma platter (they have apparently replaced the lamb with beef) and wasn’t all that excited with what he found. I spotted the brightly colored signage of the place and looked at the menu. It was all pretty standard except for one sandwich.
Once I spotted the chicken beiruti ($5.99) on the menu, and noticed the last ingredient listed was french fries I got pretty excited. The menu at Baba Ghanouge is a mix of beef and chicken shawarma baguette sandwiches and wraps, lamb kofta, falafel and stuff like hummus and stuffed grape leaves. They also have savory pies containing lamb, cheese and spinach, but I thought they looked a little pricey for their smallish size at $4.99 each. And let’s just ignore that this place contains a smoothie bar.
I was somewhat skeptical of having a baguette sandwich at a Mediterranean place, but went with it. I don’t know what they do to the sandwich, but they toast it in some sort of contraption and it makes the bread really crispy and hold up better to the ingredients. Sadly, the chicken in the sandwich was not off the shawarma turning behind the counter, but was white meat chunks with a bunch of seasoning on the outside. It also contained pickled vegetables, actual pickles, lettuce, onion and a garlic sauce that I would call crack-like.
The most magical bites of the sandwich involved those french fries. Before I committed to ordering the chicken beiruti, I asked the guy at the counter whether it actually contained fries, and he assured me that it “only had a few.” I think he misread my disappointment over the light sprinkling of those fries that were dug out of the fryer. They were more like small potato wedges, but whatever. I’ll take fries in my sandwich in any way I can get them.
One word of caution is that they don’t automatically ask if you want spicy sauce on your sandwich by default like they do at the street meat carts. It also takes a few minutes to get the sandwich, I’m guessing because of the toasting and carving of meat off of spits. They have some lunch specials like a falafel sandwich with a soda or water for $4.95 or any baguette sandwich with a side for $7.95.
The place was steadily busy when I ate there, and as I left noticed there was a Subway shop right next door with one guy sitting inside. I wanted to go tell him that he could get something better next door, but I guess some people are powerless to the $5 footlong.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Uhh…any place that has a sandwich involving french fries is OK in my book!
- The garlic sauce is like crack.
- It makes eating at the Subway next door even more shameful.
- The shawarma involves real meat not formed into a cone shape in a factory.
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I can get cheaper falafel and street meat from a cart.
- I need more than four french fries in my sandwich, please.
- Anywhere that has a smoothie bar is lame.
- I only eat $5 footlongs, and can get one next door.
Baba Ghanouge, 165 Church St. (btw. Chambers & Reade), (212) 571-2020