I don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting old or what, but I feel more and more emotional these days when I eat the food that I enjoyed during earlier times in my life. The soft-serve ice cream from Frostbite, for example, [ LINK ] that reminds me so much of my happy childhood Summers spent riding bikes to get ice cream daily. Or Dave’s version of Joe’s Reuben [ LINK ] that actually, literally brought a tear to my eye the first time I tried it, because it took me straight back home to the Northeast — specifically Brookline, Massachusetts — where my teenage self discovered Jewish deli food for the first time. Most recently, I was fighting back another tear while chewing my way through the most beautiful falafel pita bread sandwich I’ve had since my early twenties, when I was attending art school in Boston. Back in those days, I would get a falafel wrap at least 2 or 3 times a week from a permanent falafel truck that was a beloved fixture of the “concrete campus” of Mass Art. I haven’t had falafel as good as that in close to 30 years, until I stepped into the brand-spankin’ new Baba Nahm, Middle Eastern take-away shop on Page Street in The Grove Arcade.
I popped in a day or two after they opened, just to take a quick look at the very limited menu, and scope the place out. I was just about to leave when I heard someone say “Stu!” It was Reza! Chef Reza Setayesh, that is, of Rezaz restaurant fame, and of course, one of the co-owners of Baba Nahm. I had never met him before, and was immediately pulled in by his engaging smile, and obvious excitement about this newest venture of his. So, I was trapped! Ha ha! I couldn’t leave now, not without ordering and eating some food anyhow. I went over my 8 options, 6 of which you can see in this photo…
I almost opted for my obvious jam, the chicken shawarma pita, but I’m making an effort to eat more vegetarian and vegan foods, and I had recently tried a rather sub-par piece of falafel at another local establishment, so I ordered Reza’s falafel pita instead. I’m really glad I did! It was huge for one thing, more or less bursting out of the pocket, all fresh and gorgeous, and looking like a plus-sized super-model of sandwiches. Baba Nahm thoughtfully provided me with a fork, so that I could essentially eat the first third of this sandwich as a salad, until the heaping pile of food was more manageable to be grasped, and held, and devoured like a sandwich. Here’s a picture of this beautiful beast…
Now, I don’t usually mention price — because I was raised to think that’s tacky — but this large, high quality, expertly made sandwich was also very CHEAP at only $4.95. Are you kidding me? I don’t know the last time I found a piece of food so big for such a small price in downtown Asheville, let alone one so fresh, and healthy, and… wow… it tasted amazing. It was so much like the falafel wraps that I used to buy from my favorite food truck back in Boston, that a dang tear started to form in my left eyeball… BUT NO! I squeeeeezed it back, and prevented it from being fully realized as a tear.
Then I mowed my way through that healthy Middle Eastern feast like a ravenous goat. Nom nom nom… lotta roughage… chew chew… gahd so tasty… chomp chomp chomp… should I save half for later? Fuck that… chew, chomp, nom etc etc until it was all gone. Every vegan-friendly crumb and morsel of this fantastic sandwich was deposited into my stomach in less that 20 minutes. I couldn’t stop myself from taking bite after bite, and feeling better and better, both physically and emotionally with each new mouthful. The pita was soft and fresh, but not all puffy-soft like the super-shitty over-processed pita that a chain sandwich shop might offer. This pita bread had substance, it had character, and it had the following things piled inside: Hummus, Israeli salad, Arabic pickled vegetables, lettuce, parsley salad, lemon tahini, and of course Falafel. Here’s a close-up…
I’m not gonna pretend that I know a lot about the herbs and spices and what-all went into making this sandwich taste so good to me, I’m just going to say that the snap of the produce, the crunch and tang of the pickles, the creamy, rich quality of the tahini, and the hot, deep-fried-til-crispy-on-the-outside, yet moist and crumbly on the inside fallafel were all 100% on the money to me.
I’m not a falafel expert, but neither am I a novice, and I would rank this falafel in the top five I’ve ever eaten, whether in Asheville, or Boston, or Chicago, or New York City. I mentioned my concept of “big city food” in my most recent Asheville Sandwich Report [ LINK ], and this sandwich definitely ranks right up there with some of the best big city food I’ve had in recent years. It was a healthy portion of healthy, interesting, international, well made, thoughtful, good looking, and great tasting grub, that cost me less than ten dollars and 1/2 of a tear! And for all those reasons it is my…
“Middle Eastern, quick-trip food place with vibrant, healthy salads, falafel, and spit-roasted lamb and chicken — lots of Mediterranean goodness!”
Address: 1 Page Ave #139, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 575-2075
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.
ON THE RADIO: wpvmfm.org
I’m excited (or at least hopeful) about the sabich, as I think it’s the first place in town to have it on the menu.
I am a huge faalel fan, if not expert- having eaten and learned to make it from a Palestinian momma, so I will for sure check this out.
Yes to Stu eating more Vegan and veggie!
I am a huge fafalel fan, if not expert- having eaten and learned to make it from a Palestinian momma, so I will for sure check this out.
Yes to Stu eating more Vegan and veggie!