Naf Naf Grill has been adding suburban locations at a pretty good clip, constantly refining and whittling down the menu. They just opened up in the Chicago Loop a few weeks ago, and the concept is as streamlined as ever.
Since they opened in Naperville a few years ago, the team behind Naf Naf Grill has slowly whittled down to the essentials. At their latest location - in the heart of The Loop - lunch is always packed, but they move through the line with Chipotle-like speed. Your choices are limited: beef tenderloin, falafel, chicken schnitzel or shawarma, served either in a bowl, on top of yellow rice, or stuffed into a pita that's baked fresh throughout the day in their customized, Israeli pita oven - one of the key features of this rapidly-expanding chain.
"Very similar topping in our kitchen but we use mostly fresh vegetables and then fresh onions," said co-owner Sahar Sander.
Those onions are laced with sumac, more of a Lebanese touch, actually.. but there are plenty of Israeli signs: the vibrant, purple cabbage, the optional pickles, even the Jerusalem salad, which differs from most local Middle Eastern versions.
"I think what makes it a Jerusalem salad is the tahini on top of it, so there is no tahini on top of our salad, it's just lemon juice and olive oil," said Sander.
The highlight, at least visually, are the twin towers of shawarma. Made on-site each day, they are always juicy and tender, and sliced directly from the cone into a warming tray, so turnover is high.
"It's made out of chicken, not really marinated, just nice fresh chicken with the seasoning on top," he said.
One of Sanders' unique additions is the chicken schnitzel. More like a boneless piece of thinly-pounded fried chicken, it somehow remains juicy, bursting with flavor. Whether it's stacked on rice or jammed into a pita with the assorted salads and topped with tahini or hot sauce.. It's definitely a new option for fans of Middle Eastern food.
"Personally I grew up with schnitzel so I wanted to adapt it in my kitchen since I like it so much," he said.
Naf Naf Grill
309 W. Washington Ave.
5716 W. Touhy Ave., Niles
1739 Freedom Dr., Suite 109, Naperville
4430 Fox Valley Center Dr., Suite 101, Aurora
coming soon to Rosemont