Alfanoose, July 11, 2005

8 Maiden Lane

You may ask yourself (no this is not a Talking Heads song), "Is the wait really worth it?" and you may ask yourself (ok, ok) "Why is there all this wasted space?" I am here to tell you that yes, it probably is worth it to wait for their food, in today's case for their chicken shwarma and falafel balls.

Indeed, I waited no less than twenty minutes to place my order, but when I got up there, it took but a minute or so to prepare, wrap and cash out my order. And twenty minutes is probably a lot less than what other people are going through in Madison Square Park this afternoon.

While waiting on the line that seriously didn't move for several minutes, I noticed that the restaurant could be half as big and still be able to handle the amount of covers it goes through in a day. The entire right side of the room was useless. Sure, it had a soda/"juice"/water fridge over there but that could be moved. It also featured a very long refrigerated cabinet in which only a few pastries and a box of dates found themselves temporarily stored. At least 60 square feet of space was hardly being used at all, space that could cost up to $60+ per square foot a year in rent (just a guestimate). That's $3600/year minimum, which is a lot of falafel, about 750 orders, that's 4,500 falafel balls!!).

On a hot day in New York city, the air conditioned (albeit loud -- all that empty space = echo issues) space should be a haven for diners...but instead, the seating arrangement practically forces you into communal dining and nobody wants that on their lunch break. I was one of just a few who, after waiting 20 minutes to get my food, decided to stay and eat there. Maybe the time it takes to get the food discourages people from staying -- then in which case they should be even more aware of the poor use of space in the restaurant.

None of this affects me as a diner. But in the eyes of a potential, future business owner, it drives me mad. Who knows, maybe the owner has an amazing lease and doesn't care so much. But man oh man.

The food, most importantly, is very good. The chicken shwarma was pretty hefty and although the chicken was a little on the dry side, the pickle and radish add-ons were really quite good and brought the sandwich/wrap to different directions on my tastebuds. The falafels are as good as everyone says, and, as properly advertised, made to order. They are piping hot upon arrival from the frier. These falafels have actually inspired me to work on a falafel-style burger for the Hamburger Contest that's been showing on Food Network lately, and who's advertisements for recipes/entrants have been all over the NYC-based periodicals.

Very good food, and pretty cheap. The above set me back $11.50 and was way more than what I needed. I'd suggest sharing an order of the falafel and two sandwiches with one other person, which would really give you a good idea of the food for which Alfanoose is known.


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