Location: SE 50th and Ivon at A la Carts Food Pavilion
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11am-9pm; Fri/Sat, 11am-10pm
Every cart has its story. It may be the unique food they create or a family recipe or a childhood dream. For Aladdin’s Castle, the cart would never have been if it hadn’t been for two people falling in love at first sight.
Aladdin’s Castle Cafe is the creation of Ghaith and Tiffany who met and fell in love in a hostel in Amsterdam. Holland was Ghaith’s third country of refuge after leaving the perpetual violence of Baghdad where he grew up, had been injured during the war and where some of his family still live. Ghaith fell in love with street food while in Amsterdam and lo and behold, Tiffany was from the street food capitol of the world – Portland. Beyond each other, they obviously had other passions in common. Ghaith didn’t learn his trade in school, he just cooked and experimented and listened to his mother. Some of the best food comes from family tradition and plenty of love in the kitchen. Standing there, watching Ghaith, his mother and Tiffany prepare some dishes for me showed that kinship.
At Aladdin’s Castle Cafe they serve up traditional dishes from Baghdad and Iraq. You will recognize many of them like hummus and flatbread wraps and lentil soup, but there are a few that were new to me. Mahshi is like dolma, but they stuff onion with rice, vegetables and spices infused with the flavors of sun-dried tomato and pomegranate. This is one unique dish. I didn’t really understand it until I saw it with the onion as the outer skin. It was cooked just right that I was able to cut through it with a fork. The flavors were amazing. Another treat was the Marga, a slow cooked chickpea stew served warm over basmati rice with a side of cucumber salad. The rice was fluffy and light and the chickpea was just amazing. I had more food than I knew what to do with and each and every one had its own special flavor.
Ghaith put together three whole plates of food for me so I was able to sample almost every flavor on the menu including desserts like chocolate bean cake and a date roll. There was so much food there, I enjoyed it that night and most of the next day with my family. This is one of those carts you will need to visit a few times to try everything. Ghaith and Tiffany are welcoming and generous and we’re glad to have them in our city. Drop on by, enjoy an Arabic coffee while you wait and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Flatbread Wrap Sandwich: Iraqi shawarma or falafel served on warm flatbread with hummus, lettuce, tomato, onion and garlic-yogurt dressing. Beef, chicken or lamb shawarma and falafel available – $6
- Rice Plate: bed of basmati rice with a dollop of marga, green salad and cucumber yogurt salad. Beef, chicken or lamb shawarma and falafel available – $7.50
- Marga: slow cooked stew served warm over basmati rice with side salad or yogurt and cucumber salad – chickpea stew or eggplant – $5
- Sambusa: a savory pastry stuffed with cheese and zaatar – $2
- Mahshi: onions stuffed with rice, vegetables and spices infused with flavors of sun-dried tomato and pomegranate – $1.50 for 1 or $5 for 3 with a side salad.
- Mezza Platter – $5 – choose 3 of the following: hummus, baba ghanoush, yogurt and cucumber salad, eggplant saute, beet salad, pickled mango with garbanzo beans, full mudammas (fava beans, olive oil and garlic)