Whatever—it feels so right at the Nile Café and Catering Company food cart on the corner of St. Francis Drive and Cordova Road. Fries and hummus make for a starchy bite, but the chunky waffle fries are desperately good on their own merit, and making a schmear with the cart’s signature hot hummus creates a kind of culinary desert-camo concoction—and it tastes like a potato and garbanzo oasis.
Nile Café routinely offers specials—Egyptian mousaka, fresh baklava, grass-fed Kufta burgers, crispy batter-fried fish gyro, etc.—but the standard menu ain’t no mirage. I don’t know what dark sorcery imbues the pita with sensuous, toasty overtones, but it becomes especially magical when wrapped around a generous helping of falafel balls and liberally slathered in “house sauce.” Just the right amount of chopped parsley brings the $5.25 falafel sandwich home, and requesting the addition of the fresh-made hot sauce puts it to bed. Add green chile strips to induce dreams.
If you’re one who cries tears of joy for expertly seasoned lamb and beef, the gyro sandwich ($5.75) will make you sob openly while people on their way to Trader Joe’s drive by and laugh at you. But you will have the last laugh: As they choke down pre-packaged salads, you will be buried in baba ghanoush, tabbouleh and dolmas. For those who prefer to avoid crying in public, Nile Café offers free delivery. You can also find it on Twitter (@Nilecafe) and Facebook.
The next time you’re tempted to pop into Baskin-Robbins at DeVargas Center for a quick ice cream, don’t.
Instead, venture inside the mall and find your way to The Outdoorsman. Stare through the window, briefly transfixed by the armory of shotguns, rifles, pistols, knives, throwing axes and blow guns. Then, turn 180 degrees and walk straight into O'Gelato. Stare, again transfixed, at the array of stunning gelato and sorbetto flavors, made fresh each day. It’s OK, remain quiet and still and, eventually, co-owner and chief gelato engineer David Maple will offer you something delicious.
I know—you don’t want to go to the musty old mall for your upscale Italian dessert fix. But once you’ve had a sample of, say, blueberry/lavender or salted, buttered caramel, you’ll start to see the mall as strangely beautiful.
Anyone who has ever spent time wandering Italy as a gelato junkie—frantically seeking out the next fix, unable to go longer than a couple of hours without a little bump—eventually gets hooked on pistachio. It’s a revered and standard flavor but, even in Italy, it’s not always made to perfection. One soon learns that the pistachio at a lesser gelateria is an attractive, bright green color, while a truly excellent shop’s pistachio is the color of a very messy, discarded diaper. I am happy to report that O'Gelato’s pistachio is so nasty-looking it tastes like eating deep-fried angels.
One secret to Maple’s success as a gelato chef is his deep reliance, whenever possible, on local, organic ingredients and his refusal to use any premade flavorings or other less-than-scrupulous tricks of the trade.
O'Gelato has been available in local stores and restaurants for quite awhile now. Not only will that continue, Maple says, but the new shop is just the leading edge of big, weird, world-conquering plans for the modest gelato operation. If you’re a fan of the packaged product, you owe it to yourself to stop by the magician’s lair and get your magic served fresh. You’ll probably leave with a pint after gorging yourself on an oversized cup. You might even leave with one of Maple’s inspired special gelato flavors, such as “secret breakfast,” made with bourbon and corn flakes.
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