"Don't judge a book by its cover" is the phrase that should come to mind, when you first walk into Mamoun's on Macdougal. Despite its size, this hole-in-the-wall has been around since 1971, and will no doubt continue to flourish, serving up its famous falafel, mouthwatering kebabs, and legendary shawarma (lamb or chicken expertly seasoned with spices, and slowly rotisseried to greasy perfection on a stick).
For vegetarians, the hummus comes highly recommended. It's smooth and creamy with just the right combination of garlic, lemon and tahini, thoughtfully drizzled with olive oil, and garnished with cumin and paprika, it's so good, it'll ruin supermarket hummus forever. Mamoun's hummus sandwich starts with a warm pita pocket, generously loaded with its signature chickpea spread, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and tahini (sesame) sauce. If you're a heat lover, give your sandwich an extra kick with some seriously spicy hot sauce.
Not satisfied? Then go for the full-monty: the hummus platter. Served on a plate with onions, fresh parsley, juicy tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil, it comes with two warm pitas for maximum dipping pleasure. Other great veggie-friendly options are the "Baba Ganouj" (roasted eggplant, garlic, parsley and tahini), and the "Tabouleh" (a refreshing wheat salad with finely chopped mint, parsley and onions).
Now, for all you carnivores out there... if moist, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly seasoned meats with a Middle Eastern flair are your thing, you've come to the right place. The lamb and chicken kebabs, and gyro-style meats come ready to order. Sandwich or platter, it doesn't matter, since neither one will disappoint. Loaded with the same accouterments as the veggie options, these are stuff food dreams are made of.
It doesn't end there... Not only does Mamoun's offer great eats that will have you salivating for months to come, this tiny establishment also boasts delicious beverages like cold or hot spiced tea, and mango and tamarind juices that are the perfect compliment to anything you'll order off the menu.
Pastry lovers, don't pass on the "Baklava" (fillo dough, walnuts and honey); it's flaky, crunchy, nutty and sweet. The "Knafe" (shredded fillo with pistachios soaked in honey), and the "Mabrumeh" (fillo dough with pistachios, walnuts, and almonds soaked in honey), are other great finishers to a quick and cheap, Middle Eastern feast.
So next time you're in the Village, drop by Mamoun's for fully-flavored meal that's also kind to your wallet.