Ali and Wendy Saleh opened the second cafe at the east end of Branch Street in March 2012. The bright, welcoming eatery offers all the Middle Eastern dishes from the original Jaffa Café that Alis brother, Adnen Saleh, launched in San Luis Obispo in 2000.
He really just handed the concept to us, said Ali Saleh. Its the same exact everything, and everybody trained in San Luis before coming here. We use the same recipes and almost everything is made from scratch the sauces, the soups, the salads.
Indeed, even the baklava is house-made right down to the syrup (and youre welcome to a free piece of the delectable treat on your first visit try it with a small cup of the strong, sweet Turkish coffee).
Among the most popular items on the Jaffa menu is the shawarma marinated and roasted meat served either in a pita bread wrap with lettuce and tomatoes or on an entrée plate with hummus, pita and your choice of rice or lettuce.
To make the shawarmas, pieces of the marinated meats (chicken, beef, or lamb) are stacked and pressed together on a spit that slowly rotates vertically in front of a rotisserie, and then the roasted meat is deftly shaved off in thin pieces to order.
Youll see the big, slowly turning spits behind the counter at Jaffa, and fans of the Mexican pork dish known as al pastor will recognize the identical cooking technique.
Anyone looking for vegetarian fare shouldnt be put off by those big meat-laden spits, however. Easily half of the Jaffa menu is vegetarian, including several salads and the very popular housemade red lentil soup.
There are also several classic Middle Eastern vegetarian appetizers such as stuffed grape leaves, falafel (deep fried garbanzo bean balls), a roasted eggplant dip called baba ghanoush, and a zesty taboulleh made with bulgur wheat, chopped parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, and onions.
If youre new to this cuisine, some already familiar dishes you might try include the chicken kabobs, an open-faced three cheese pita pizza, or even the kiftas. The latter are ground beef patties somewhat akin to sliders, but flavored with onion, parsley and Middle Eastern seasonings.
Whatever you order, be sure to take your plate on a visit to the Jaffa condiment bar. Here youll find dill pickle spears, pepperoncinis, and four house-made sauces: shatta (a spicy red chili sauce), a milder red salsa made from roasted japones chiles, green tomatillo salsa, and a refreshing yoghurt, dill and cucumber sauce known as tzatziki.
By all accounts, Jaffas Middle Eastern menu has been well received in the community, and Saleh noted that we feel very blessed to have this location. We love the small community feel and really think its been a win-win for all of us. Theres a lot here wine tasting, ice cream, farmers markets, music on the weekends. Weve really just fallen in love with the Village.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.