Chicken shawarma pita with restaurant’s specialty chips. Photo by Henry Nieberg ’19.

Anyone who has ridden the Green Line knows the extensive number of restaurants that lie between St. Paul and Minneapolis. The line stretches through communities that are new and old, commercial and residential. This week, I tried a Middle Eastern restaurant that was recommended to me. I took the Green Line to the East Bank Station, which is located on the University of Minnesota campus. I went to try Naf Naf Grill, a Middle Eastern casual dining chain that specializes in Shawarma and Falafel dishes.

When I walked in, I was thrown off by how empty the store was, considering the restaurant’s location in the center of the U of M campus. While the food looked fresh, I was also a bit skeptical considering the food was a little pricey. Nonetheless, I ordered the shawarma in pita ($7.20) and for an additional $3 got soda and homemade chips. Usually I wouldn’t be keen on spending over $10, considering that I am a college student on a budget and was ordering at a chain. The pita was warm, full and packed with hearty flavor. Not only is the meat well seasoned, the meat is locally sourced. My friends all ordered the shawarma bowls, and unlike Scotty’s, Naf Naf had a plethora of sauces to choose from to accompany the dishes. I got the tahini sauce, which accompanied the shawarma in a heavenly way.

I also want to talk about the chips, which they call fries. I’m not sure why they’re called fries, but it really doesn’t matter because you have to get them. They are chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, with the perfect distribution of salt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish everything because they gave huge portions. After noticing this, I realized why the prices were above average.

Shawarma Bowl. Photo by Henry Nieberg ’19.

Though I have been in the Twin Cities now for a little over a year, I still haven’t found that many Middle Eastern restaurants that are relatively cheap, accessible and, well, good. This restaurant for the most part meets all the criteria. It’s three blocks away from a Green Line station, costs $10 and some coins, and is some of the best Middle Eastern food I’ve had here. My only critique is that, beyond shawarma and falafel, there is not much variety. Nonetheless, I found the food delicious, and I will most definitely be going back.

Naf Naf Grill is located at 856 SE Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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