Near East Bakery
Duck into the crowded but tidy Near East Bakery in Hamilton and you'll find all the fixings for a proper Lebanese tabbouleh salad, olives sold by the pound, tahini, spices, coffee, and cans, bags, and bins of everything else you need. But we dropped in for something quick. Near East Bakery's namesake--its pita bread and stuffed pies, found in groceries all over town--beckoned from a cooler in the back.
At $2 each, it was hard to decide. Choose between pies stuffed with spinach and red pepper (laced with just enough heat to lend the spinach some punch), spinach (good, but "tasted like a Chrysler K-Car" after eating its hot-peppered kin, said one of our party), fava beans (cumin-spiced, mellow and the heartiest of the bunch), and black olives (a nice contrast with the bread, but a little skimpy on the olive spread). We also picked up a sort of Lebanese pizza, topped with cheese and poppy seeds ($3.50). By the time we finished that and a carton of falafels with a perfect tahini sauce ($4.50), we were bleary eyed. The cans of Vimto ($1), a British black currant-raspberry soda evidently popular with Middle Eastern consumers that hovered somewhere between "carbonated Kool-Aid," "Pez juice," and Welch's grape soda, were a bit much.
A good, quick, and tasty lunch, but take a couple extra minutes to use a toaster oven instead of a microwave. Everything tastes better crispy--not spongy. (Tim Hill)