Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Restaurant Review: WOW Egyptian Fast Food in Carol Stream...

Last Friday before work my Husband asked me if I wanted to try a new fast food place that a co-worker of his had been raving about for some time now. Of course fast and food are not two words I ever want to hear put together in the same sentence and so I looked at him quizzically. After all if you drive around any Midwestern city you’d be inclined to believe that the only fast food it’s capable of producing is burgers, pizza, hot dogs, tacos and subs. Most of which are not very vegetarian - and even less vegan - friendly. Before I could object my husband explained that the fast food establishment in question was an Egyptian restaurant. Oh, well that’s a little different I thought. I love Middle Eastern food, as well as many North African dishes so I asked if he was certain that the place had vegetarian options. He handed me a menu that his co-worker had given to him, and when I saw the words “Vegetarian Platter” printed on the back I knew we would have to at least give the place a try.

So we went. From the outside the place has a very ‘fast food’ feel. It’s painted in bold primary colors and looks like it would be right at home sitting next to a McDonalds. The inside is a little kitschy, with pseudo-Egyptian designs, Hieroglyphs, and pictures of Egyptian Gods but the staff was very friendly and very welcoming. After looking over the menu both my husband and I decided to each get a vegetarian platter which contained 3 falafels, pita bread, hummus, baba ganoush, tahini sauce and Egyptian Salad. Then along with it I got a bowl of lentil soup, and my husband got a side order of fried eggplant. After placing our order we took a seat near the window and began to chat, though it didn’t take long at all for the food to come. Unlike regular fast food places the food here comes served on actual plates, with real cutlery, and the drinks come in actual glasses. From an environmental perspective I really appreciate this, because the waste and pollution of ordering one meal at a McDonalds disgusts me. I hate the disposable culture we live in. The side dishes however come in reusable plastic baskets lined with parchment paper. Certainly not as bad a s typical fast food place since the baskets are reusable but I would have preferred a small plate.

Anyway everything smelled delicious and so we dug in. I ate my soup first, and it was quite good. It was blended and smooth, no chunks like a typical lentil soup might have. Though I thought it was slightly under seasoned - I would have added garlic - it was enjoyable, particularly because Friday was cold and a hot soup is always appreciated in such a climate. Next I tried the humus and the pita, both were fantastic. The pita was so soft and delectable and the humus rich but not overpowering. The Baba was also very good, in fact one of the better Baba’s I’ve had. Sometimes I find Baba bitter, and whenever I order it, or make it at home it’s hit or miss, but this one was great. Next I tried the Egyptian salad which was a combination of chopped onion, cucumber, parsley, and tomato in a vinaigrette, that was also very good. Last the falafel’s which I thought were pretty good, with a nice spicy kick. Although I think I make better falafel at home, but that might be because I prefer my falafel baked and these were fried. I think these were also made with fava beans while I just use chickpeas. Anyway overall they were good and they tasted great dipped in the humus, the baba, and with tahini drizzled over top of them. Oh and of course I can’t forget my husband’s side order of Fried Eggplant! Oh my goddess were they good! They were only lightly fried. When I hear the word fried I expect ‘deep fried’ of which I am not the biggest fan, but these were not deep-fried. They looked as if they’d been fried in a skillet with some olive oil and so they didn’t have that grease taste. They tasted clean, and they were super juicy. I would definitely order them again.

Though the restaurant is not vegetarian - they have chicken and beef - they are pretty vegetarian friendly and they’re certainly serving up food that’s healthier then the typical fast food fare. Aside from the dishes I’ve already mentioned for vegetarians they offer a falafel meal, a falafel wrap, a baba sandwich, a fried cauliflower sandwich. A side of fried cauliflower, pickled vegetables, rice, tabbouleh, fries and a few other things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Overall though I’m not a fast food person, and don’t particularly like to spend my time in fast food places I think this is a place I wouldn’t mind going once in a while. Certainly it’s nice to have something healthful, and ethnic close by for those ‘in a hurry’ days when you really don’t want to cave and get a $6 veggie sub from Subway, or a $8 Veggie Fajita Burrito from Chipotle. The prices at WOW are actually very reasonable, for the food that my husband and I ordered plus a Mango Juice it only costed $18, and though it might not look like a ton of food in the picture it kept me extremely full all afternoon-evening at work, so that I didn’t eat anything in the hours that I was working. - A big achievement. It really is true what they say about quality not quantity and with WOW unlike other fast food places you can tell that the food is fresh. It tastes fresh, and it tastes clean. It doesn’t taste like it’s full of salt, sugar, and fat like all other fast food places. My only two complaints - and I suppose they’re not exactly complaints per say but opinions - is that I think the order of pita bread should be larger. They give you a large amount of humus and Baba and so it could use a bit more bread. Also I would like to see something a little more exotic on the menu. Though all of this food is commonly eaten in Egypt, it’s also commonly eaten in other parts of Northern Africa and the Middle East, it would be nice to see something on the menu that is a True Traditional Egyptian Dish, but that’s me. Otherwise this place is great, and so if you’re in the area I highly recommend you stop in!

EDIT - We enjoyed WOW so much the first time that we ate here again the following Friday. The Fried Cauliflower Sandwich was just too much for me to resit not trying and so My husband and I stopped in again before I headed off to work. Now let me tell you, everything we ate the first time and the second time was delicious but that Fried Cauliflower Sandwich was absolutely to die for! The flavor was amazing, it is literally one of the best things I've eaten out in some time. The sandwich is made with fired cauliflower florets, Egyptian Salad, and Tahini Sauce and the entire thing is contained in a big pita. After one bite I was totally hooked, and because I love Humus so much and because we ordered some to go with our meal i dabbed a little of that in my sandwich too. I'd have to say that this second time around the humus was even better, and even creamier. We ordered a full humus order and 2 orders of Pita bread to split between us, and let me tell you we probably could have ordered 4 orders of pita bread because it sure was a lot of humus!

For our second trip my Husband ordered the Vegetable soup which he said he liked a lot. I took a little taste and it was pretty decent, though I opted to go with the lentil soup again. Now I don't know if anyone read my review and took my suggestions to heart but the lentil soup this time around was fan-freaking-tastic! really the flavor was amazing, it had a good amount of garlic and it had whole cumin seeds right in it. I loved it!

For my husband's meal he got the Falafel Sandwich which I didn't try because I had enough food of my own to eat, but he said it was fantastic. I could tell he really loved it because he'd devoured it in what seemed like seconds. Then to wash it all down we each had a hot Hibiscus tea which was really good. I love Hibiscus tea, and for me the tea at WOW was just the right combination of tart and sweet.

As I said before I highly, highly suggest you try this place out if you're in the area, the food is really phenomenal  I know my husband and I will probably stop in every now and again. Next time I look forward to trying the Baba Sandwich and the Tabbouleh.

PS: I also love how on the t.v. in the background they play the t.v. sketch comedy show “Just For Laughs” This is hilarious to me, because it’s such a stable of my childhood. I mean who grows up in Canada and doesn’t know about Just for Laughs really? The Just for Laughs festival in Montreal is only the second largest comedy festival in the world, after all. I haven’t actually seen the show in years, and I didn’t even know that it aired in the U.S. so to randomly see it on the t.v. at an Egyptian Fast Food restaurant - très bizarre - kind of made my day! 

WOW Egyptian Fast Food
105 Stark Dr, Carol Stream, IL
(630) 690-4969
Hours - Mon-Thur - 10am-9pm

PPS: Please excuse the shitty cell-phone pics.

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