Cheap Eats - Westside Garden Market (2)

The small gourmet shop has morphed into a Moroccan restaurant

Tuesday November 17, 2009 10:00 am EST

Back in January, I wrote about an odd but quaint grocery that had opened on traffic-congested Howell Mill Road. At that time, Westside Garden Market's (1954 Howell Mill Road, 404-609-9666, ===www.westsidegardenmarket.com===) owner, Majid Elmaliki, planned to offer a handful of to-go items in addition to his assortment of locally made products and local produce. On a recent visit, I was surprised to find that the market is in fact no longer a market. The shelves have since been replaced by little tables covered in red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and the market is now a full-service restaurant serving Moroccan-inspired home cooking. ??As soon as any customer walks in, Elmaliki springs into action. His mix of heartfelt hospitality and genuine enthusiasm to serve will make anyone feel immediately at home. The menu consists of a small collection of recognizable dishes — offered in affordable lunch and dinner options. A hot soup, made with fresh yellow tomatoes (one of the only items not made in house), has a smooth mouthfeel and surprisingly little acidity.  ??The most enjoyable dishes are found on menu’s entrée section. There are numerous options in the vegetable section, which you can order separately, as included sides for your entrée or as part of a vegetable medley plate. The eggplant had a nice mushiness to it, but lacked salt. The spiced carrots and raisins, however, were so good that we ordered two. Elmaliki’s version is not cold and shredded, as you may have experienced elsewhere. Instead, he cuts the carrots into batons and slow-cooks them with raisins until they are tender and infused with his secret mix of Moroccan spices. Two juicy patties of kefta kabob (ground halal beef mixed with spices and grilled) are served with warm whole-wheat pita bread, white rice, your choice of two sides and a tangy yogurt sauce mixed with shredded cucumber and onions.
??Without a doubt, the best dish and value on the menu is the lamb chops. For just $10, you get four halal lamb chops spiced to your liking. The chargrilled chops are juicy and slightly spicy with cayenne pepper. The dish comes with the same accouterments and options as the kefta kabob.
Do yourself a favor at the end of the meal and order the Moroccan mint tea. Elmaliki doesn’t break out all the fanfare you’d see in Morocco (i.e., pouring the tea from great heights), and he offers honey instead of sugar to sweeten your tea. He does, however, use a nifty contraption that sits atop a tall glass and allows the hot tea to slowly rain over an abundance of fresh mint. We only ordered one. We should have ordered three.

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