Hunt Down This Hidden Gem for Fresh, Fantastic Halal Food
This modest-looking shop is a Yelp sensation — and it lives up to the hype.
Lamb and beef shawarma platter with rice underneath.
Photos By Sarah Longstreth
From the sidewalk of Mohegan Lake’s main drag, it looks like just another deli storefront. But step through the doors of Almadinah Market, and halal-food heaven is waiting.
Scroll through a few dozen reviews on the average food business’s Yelp page and you’ll usually see at least a few discouraging words. But Almadinah (as of this post’s date) has 50 reviews and a sterling 5-star rating, with both loyal regulars and awed one-timers sounding off on stellar food and service. We couldn’t resist seeing if the food lived up to the hype — and were thrilled to discover it did. Owner and sole chef Ahmad Alwadi (pictured right) serves up his halal favorites — hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, hearty shawarma, and deep-fried falafel — with ample portions for the price and a homemade freshness you can taste.
The first choice is the toughest — do you want your protein wrapped in fresh pita or on a big bed of golden saffron rice? Neither one will disappoint. When you order, Alwadi gives a run-down of sauces and veggie add-ins in case there’s anything you want to nix. We opted for everything he offered; a pleasant surprise was the strips of pickled turnip, which paired well with both the crisp-textured falafel and the lavish lamb/beef-blend shawarma.
The potato samosas (pictured below) are perfect — fresh from the fryer, with a lovely golden crust holding a smooth and spicy filling. They came with mango chutney (not homemade, but proudly sold on the shelves nearby) that added just the right amount of sweetness. I’d have gone for seconds if I hadn’t been full up on falafel.
The baklava, home-baked by Alwadi’s wife Maha, makes an irresistible dessert. The famously flaky, honey-sticky nut pastry is precision-cut into bite-size squares—just right for an after-meal bite plus a bit to take home.
This February, Almadinah celebrated its seventh year in business. Alwadi, who is originally from Palestine, first opened the market as a grocery and butcher shop. “The first years were tough, very tough,” he recalls. In 2013, he started selling his homemade falafel; then, by popular demand, he began offering chicken and rice, which remains one of his top-selling dishes. Since then, word of mouth — particularly those glowing Yelp reviews — has driven Almadinah’s popularity. “I get at least one first-time customer every single day,” Alwadi says. “People always tell me that the outside is disappointing, but that the food is better than they can get in the city.”
It’s clear what they mean. On all counts — quality, quantity, and price point — these meals are more than worth the trip.
1969 E Main St; Mohegan Lake
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