It was a chilly December night, but the place was already packed when we arrived with friends. We scrambled to grab two tables as diners cleared their trays to leave. Then our families made our way up to the front counter. Servers behind glass-topped stations took our orders.
The chicken shawarma pita caught my attention and that of our eldest daughter. My middle daughter zoomed in on lentil soup. And my youngest boldly ordered a falafel and basmati rice bowl. Add an order of fries with garlic sauce alongside a pita and my husband was happy.
My dad talks about how when he was growing up he ate a limited variety of foods. My grandmother often cooked Carpatho-Rusyn and Polish foods and basic meat-and-potato meals. By the time he married my mom he had never eaten Chinese food or even pizza.
My gastronomic upbringing was another story. With two Korean sisters by adoption, my family frequently ate Korean dishes. I hadn’t considered this an adventurous lifestyle until the recent increase in the popularity of sushi. My response: eat sushi? No thanks! That is, until I realized that one of my favorite Korean dishes (kimbap) is actually sushi.
My family also cooked Mexican, Italian and even French crepes at home. My parents encouraged us to keep an open mind when it came to food by exposing my siblings and I to a wide variety of dishes and flavors.
In our home now we have attempted the same. But you know how it goes – you settle into a routine. Your menu tends to rotate around a standard list of recipes. When you go out to eat you stick to your favorite restaurants. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Unless your goal is to foster an openness to new food experiences in your kids.
Which is why our family bucket list includes certain restaurants and types of foods. Last year one of our goals was to introduce our kids to Middle Eastern foods. I can’t say my husband and I have eaten much of it ourselves, so we welcomed this challenge for our own benefit too.
Enter Naf Naf Grill. It took us until the last week of December to reach this bucket list goal, but through the prompting of friends, we ventured out to this promising local restaurant chain. Think Chipotle with Middle Eastern food. Pitas, shawarma, tahini sauce, basmati rice and more in a build-your-own meal style.
We had a great time! Naf Naf served up interesting flavors and hearty portions. I had to force myself to slow down and save some of my pita for later. Our family traded tastes around so that we could sample some of everything. And everyone agreed that Naf Naf should go on our list of regular restaurants.
I would call that a success! Next up on our family food bucket list: Korean food. My kids really need to try kimbap.
Photo credit: “Naf Naf Grill” by the Shifted Librarian on Flickr via CC License