I am terminating my blogging hiatus with my newly acquired time, money, self-determination and a trip to Ray’s Lebanese Cuisine (commonly known as Ray’s Falafel). I have had some time to re-examine why I got into blogging and what I am trying to accomplish. As for Ray’s Falafel: totally classic.
It is a big delicious mess and that is what I’m here to talk about. Ray’s Falafel has won “Best Falafel” so many times in The Coast that the category has been retired. The Scotia Square food court, and Ray’s Falafel in particular, is so awesome that hardly anyone ever talks about it. Everyone just knows.
But do they?
New Haligonians are emerging everyday and forced to navigate the culinary waters for themselves. Undoubtedly, they are bombarded by the unison of voices cheerfully telling them to “Buy Local” and that’s fantastic. Make no mistake, I am totally down with buying local. But then there are the buzz words – “organic”, “gourmet”, “chef-inspired”, “non-pretentious” (which actually sorta means pretentious)… the culinary landscape can be a minefield of “hype”, and the safest route can be the bandwagon.
Sometimes I just wanna bring it back to the basics. A cheap plate of home-made food on a tray in a mall food court. This is Ray’s Falafel.
I used to eat here all the time when Scotia Square was, for all intents and purposes, my backyard. When you walk up to the counter you’ll be taken aback by how quickly Ray addresses you (usually as “sweetheart”). A word of advice: know what you want, and don’t let Ray out of your sight. If you order a combo platter, he will automatically compose it in a certain way. You will get fattoush if you don’t adamantly request tabouli. Basically if you want to add or subtract anything, pay very close attention and make it clear. Looking into the line-up…
.. we’ve got (pictured) tabloui, hummus, garlic sauce, banana peppers, pickled cabbage, parsley, BBQ chicken, falafel, a cabbage dish, potatoes, tahini baked fish, lentils & rice, and rice. There are more items to the left (not pictured), of particular interest, fatayer (spinach pies), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), foul (fava & chickpeas in sauce), grilled eggplant and cauliflower, and fattoush (basic Lebanese salad).
Typically, you would order the BBQ chicken or the falafel (there is also kafta) in either wrap or combo-plate form. If you order a plate, expect this: rice, lentils & rice, tahini baked white fish, cooked cabbage, BBQ chicken (or falafel), fattoush, potatoes. If you want anything done differently – make it abundantly clear! For example, I requested tabouli rather than fattoush, and ordered a single falafel on the side. Ray works so quickly that your platter will be finished in a blink, and you’d better hope you’re not a picky eater!
The BBQ chicken is delicious, and Ray makes batches that he grills up fresh each time (I saw him grillin’). For $7.75 you get a hefty plate of awesomeness. You will be full and satisfied. Everything on the plate is seriously awesome. It ain’t fancy but it’s a local gem of worthy mention.
Halifax is changing. We are seeing more bistros, gastropubs, “interactive eating”, craft beer, and local emphasis. I’m all for it. But I don’t want to neglect the “old local” – the traditional, the “no frills”, the worthy gems that immortalized themselves in our food culture. My hat is off to Ray’s Falafel.