Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Made for You and Me

Alforon offers a warm bit of heaven.

A sampler of Lebanese delicacies
A sampler of Lebanese delicacies

Google Maps directed me to get off the 15 north at El Cajon Boulevard and drive 20 blocks to Alforon, the “amazing” Lebanese place my friend Patricia had raved about. It’s at 59th Street, near the Campus Plaza Shopping Center. Rather than going with my impulse to skip the long trek down the Boulevard on this lovely April evening, twilight descending over the city, I decided to take another route. I was reminded of a passage from Jim Miller’s novel, Drift. Set in San Diego circa 2000, the main character, Joe, is cruising down El Cajon Boulevard to College Billiards on the corner of 53rd, listening to the song “My Favorite Things”:

Tawook — so good were the garlic paste and chicken.

“Coltrane left the structure of the melody and flew into some dissonant notes as Joe crossed Fairmount by the Labor Council, which made him think of Woody Guthrie. Etna Pizza, Amara, Saigon Restaurant, Hoover High, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, ‘This land was made for you and me.’ There were some kids fighting on the street outside Near East Foods. Joe smelled a rich sweet odor wafting out of a Chinese bakery, rolled on past Nam Bac Sam Nhugh Duoc, Chinese Herbs, Kon Luong, the Asian Business Center, Pho Hoa, 7-Eleven, and Euclid Street. ‘This land is your land,’ 97 Cent Discount Store, ‘This land is my land,’ Tony’s Tire Shop, ‘This land was made for you and me.’”

Miller’s passage perfectly captures the street, the poetry of the storefronts. It was hard not to heed Guthrie’s words as I bopped my head in time to the Beck tune on my own stereo.

Indeed, my trip through City Heights to Rolando was a reminder of the plethora of immigrant influences in San Diego. The postcard-pretty image of our city can hide its dense richness, whereas a drive down one of our central arteries reveals Technicolor complexity. To get to my Lebanese food, I passed through neighborhoods where Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines sit cheek by jowl with Mexican and Jamaican places. We forget that San Diego is a crossroads, similar to its sister to the north, Los Angeles. I hoped the meal I was fetching for my family, and our friend Keith, who was visiting from Northern California, would not disappoint.

Thank-you notes from Lebanese diners hang on the wall.

Located in a small strip mall, next to Aladdin’s Hookah and Coffee Bar, Alforon’s unassuming exterior belies its warm, Mediterranean-inflected interior, burnt-umber walls, dark wood furniture, and the tile floor of its dining room. When I arrived, a table of chic Lebanese women was just clearing out. In a corner, a college-age couple nuzzled over wraps and sodas. I felt a pang that I was getting takeout rather than sitting down and eating our dishes as they emerged from a huge, wood-burning oven behind the front counter in the open kitchen. After catching a glimpse of a paper-wrapped Zaatar Mana’eesh ($2.50) — Lebanese oven-baked flatbread — and rolled Chicken Tawook ($5.75) — a wrap slathered with garlic paste and marinated chicken — I was intrigued to see what awaited once I got everything home. All the dishes at Alforon are affordably priced, so my family and I had gone a bit crazy with our order, aiming to experience as much as we could of what the restaurant has to offer. The menu is so extensive, our sampling left us with plenty of interesting items to try another time.

My drive back to Golden Hill was more prosaic, down College to the 94. I wanted to blast home, so we could dive into the aromas emanating from the bags on my front seat. Once in the house and unpacked, I couldn’t believe the array of dishes I’d netted.

First off was a very serviceable Fattoush — a salad of tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, onions, and bread shards in a lemony dressing ($4.95 for a small; $9.95 for 2–3 people). While I prefer a Fattoush with a bit more bread, the dressing stood out. Alforon imports its olive oil from “the homeland,” and they use it liberally in all their dishes. The flavors of the salad dressing were echoed in a fava-bean dish, Foul Moudammas ($5.95), a warm bit of heaven. Use your leftover Zaatar Mana’eesh as a sop. These two items whetted our appetites for the main courses.

Which were, naturally, the flatbreads. According to Alforon’s website, they make the dough for their breads throughout the day. A host of ingredients sit atop, or rolled up inside, the thin, almost cracker-like bread. I’d ordered some of Alforon’s signature dishes, along with a couple of basics. Zaatar Mana’eesh flatbread, in its classic form of wild thyme, sumac, and sesame (without the yogurt cheese, labni, or other vegetables), gives a sense of the expertise of Alforon’s chefs — it’s simple and crisp, yet pungent with herbs and toasted sesame.

The Zaatar flatbread, though, is merely the gateway. Also tasty and impressive were: Lahm Bajeen ($2.95), a mixture of ground beef, tomatoes, and herbs and spices, which we ordered spicy; Vegetarian ($5.75), a surprising symphony of onions, tomatoes, two or three kinds of olives, sumac, oregano, and spices, all mixed in olive oil; and my friend Keith’s favorite, Portobello Mushrooms ($7.75), a pile of stewed, spiced mushrooms beneath a sprinkling of feta cheese.

Along with the flatbreads, we ordered the aforementioned Chicken Tawook. This we devoured, so good was the garlic paste and perfectly tender chicken. We also had a Falafel Wrap ($4.95), which was standard but enhanced by the inclusion of house-made pickles.

The rose syrup drips off the crust of the Aaysh Essaraya and creates a delicious pool.

Rounding out our feast was Alforon’s special dessert, Aaysh Essaraya ($3.95). This confection consists of pistachio-encrusted, rose-syrup-infused phyllo suspended on a yogurt-based pudding. The syrup drips off the crust and creates a delicious pool to scrape your spoon through as you scoop up the last bits of goo.

“This land was made for you and me.” How extraordinary that San Diegans are privy to such food. And we are clearly not alone in our gratitude — witness the many handwritten thank-you notes from Lebanese folks taped to a wall in the dining room, right underneath vintage pictures of Beirut. ■

Alforon: 5965 El Cajon Blvd, Rolando, 619-269-9904; alforon.com

Vibe: Warm, aromatic respite off busy El Cajon Boulevard

Fare: Homemade Lebanese flatbreads and kaack, hummus, baba ghannouj, falafel wraps, tabouli, fattoush salads

Seating: 6 tables, 4 seats at the counter

Must Try: Zaatar flatbread; Chicken Tawook; Lham Bajeen; Portobello Mushrooms; Foul Moudammas; Aaysh Essaraya

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

How to get to the river path from Sports Arena Boulevard

Maybe you shouldn't try
Next Article

What San Diego restaurant staffs eat, dumpster diving for dinner

How food critic Naomi Wise started her life in San Diego, how food critic Eleanor Widmer ended hers
A sampler of Lebanese delicacies
A sampler of Lebanese delicacies

Google Maps directed me to get off the 15 north at El Cajon Boulevard and drive 20 blocks to Alforon, the “amazing” Lebanese place my friend Patricia had raved about. It’s at 59th Street, near the Campus Plaza Shopping Center. Rather than going with my impulse to skip the long trek down the Boulevard on this lovely April evening, twilight descending over the city, I decided to take another route. I was reminded of a passage from Jim Miller’s novel, Drift. Set in San Diego circa 2000, the main character, Joe, is cruising down El Cajon Boulevard to College Billiards on the corner of 53rd, listening to the song “My Favorite Things”:

Tawook — so good were the garlic paste and chicken.

“Coltrane left the structure of the melody and flew into some dissonant notes as Joe crossed Fairmount by the Labor Council, which made him think of Woody Guthrie. Etna Pizza, Amara, Saigon Restaurant, Hoover High, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, ‘This land was made for you and me.’ There were some kids fighting on the street outside Near East Foods. Joe smelled a rich sweet odor wafting out of a Chinese bakery, rolled on past Nam Bac Sam Nhugh Duoc, Chinese Herbs, Kon Luong, the Asian Business Center, Pho Hoa, 7-Eleven, and Euclid Street. ‘This land is your land,’ 97 Cent Discount Store, ‘This land is my land,’ Tony’s Tire Shop, ‘This land was made for you and me.’”

Miller’s passage perfectly captures the street, the poetry of the storefronts. It was hard not to heed Guthrie’s words as I bopped my head in time to the Beck tune on my own stereo.

Indeed, my trip through City Heights to Rolando was a reminder of the plethora of immigrant influences in San Diego. The postcard-pretty image of our city can hide its dense richness, whereas a drive down one of our central arteries reveals Technicolor complexity. To get to my Lebanese food, I passed through neighborhoods where Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines sit cheek by jowl with Mexican and Jamaican places. We forget that San Diego is a crossroads, similar to its sister to the north, Los Angeles. I hoped the meal I was fetching for my family, and our friend Keith, who was visiting from Northern California, would not disappoint.

Thank-you notes from Lebanese diners hang on the wall.

Located in a small strip mall, next to Aladdin’s Hookah and Coffee Bar, Alforon’s unassuming exterior belies its warm, Mediterranean-inflected interior, burnt-umber walls, dark wood furniture, and the tile floor of its dining room. When I arrived, a table of chic Lebanese women was just clearing out. In a corner, a college-age couple nuzzled over wraps and sodas. I felt a pang that I was getting takeout rather than sitting down and eating our dishes as they emerged from a huge, wood-burning oven behind the front counter in the open kitchen. After catching a glimpse of a paper-wrapped Zaatar Mana’eesh ($2.50) — Lebanese oven-baked flatbread — and rolled Chicken Tawook ($5.75) — a wrap slathered with garlic paste and marinated chicken — I was intrigued to see what awaited once I got everything home. All the dishes at Alforon are affordably priced, so my family and I had gone a bit crazy with our order, aiming to experience as much as we could of what the restaurant has to offer. The menu is so extensive, our sampling left us with plenty of interesting items to try another time.

My drive back to Golden Hill was more prosaic, down College to the 94. I wanted to blast home, so we could dive into the aromas emanating from the bags on my front seat. Once in the house and unpacked, I couldn’t believe the array of dishes I’d netted.

First off was a very serviceable Fattoush — a salad of tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, onions, and bread shards in a lemony dressing ($4.95 for a small; $9.95 for 2–3 people). While I prefer a Fattoush with a bit more bread, the dressing stood out. Alforon imports its olive oil from “the homeland,” and they use it liberally in all their dishes. The flavors of the salad dressing were echoed in a fava-bean dish, Foul Moudammas ($5.95), a warm bit of heaven. Use your leftover Zaatar Mana’eesh as a sop. These two items whetted our appetites for the main courses.

Which were, naturally, the flatbreads. According to Alforon’s website, they make the dough for their breads throughout the day. A host of ingredients sit atop, or rolled up inside, the thin, almost cracker-like bread. I’d ordered some of Alforon’s signature dishes, along with a couple of basics. Zaatar Mana’eesh flatbread, in its classic form of wild thyme, sumac, and sesame (without the yogurt cheese, labni, or other vegetables), gives a sense of the expertise of Alforon’s chefs — it’s simple and crisp, yet pungent with herbs and toasted sesame.

The Zaatar flatbread, though, is merely the gateway. Also tasty and impressive were: Lahm Bajeen ($2.95), a mixture of ground beef, tomatoes, and herbs and spices, which we ordered spicy; Vegetarian ($5.75), a surprising symphony of onions, tomatoes, two or three kinds of olives, sumac, oregano, and spices, all mixed in olive oil; and my friend Keith’s favorite, Portobello Mushrooms ($7.75), a pile of stewed, spiced mushrooms beneath a sprinkling of feta cheese.

Along with the flatbreads, we ordered the aforementioned Chicken Tawook. This we devoured, so good was the garlic paste and perfectly tender chicken. We also had a Falafel Wrap ($4.95), which was standard but enhanced by the inclusion of house-made pickles.

The rose syrup drips off the crust of the Aaysh Essaraya and creates a delicious pool.

Rounding out our feast was Alforon’s special dessert, Aaysh Essaraya ($3.95). This confection consists of pistachio-encrusted, rose-syrup-infused phyllo suspended on a yogurt-based pudding. The syrup drips off the crust and creates a delicious pool to scrape your spoon through as you scoop up the last bits of goo.

“This land was made for you and me.” How extraordinary that San Diegans are privy to such food. And we are clearly not alone in our gratitude — witness the many handwritten thank-you notes from Lebanese folks taped to a wall in the dining room, right underneath vintage pictures of Beirut. ■

Alforon: 5965 El Cajon Blvd, Rolando, 619-269-9904; alforon.com

Vibe: Warm, aromatic respite off busy El Cajon Boulevard

Fare: Homemade Lebanese flatbreads and kaack, hummus, baba ghannouj, falafel wraps, tabouli, fattoush salads

Seating: 6 tables, 4 seats at the counter

Must Try: Zaatar flatbread; Chicken Tawook; Lham Bajeen; Portobello Mushrooms; Foul Moudammas; Aaysh Essaraya

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Dress up with cork wedges from Aerosoles and a necklace from Pier 1

“For three months, I existed only on yoga pants and sweatpants.”
Next Article

How they pry Marines out of downtown Oceanside

Darrius Pope cut hair 10 am to 8 pm in Pendleton barracks
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close