Falafel alone worth trip to Abou Andre in Loop

March 10, 2013 9:59:25 AM PDT
You may have heard of shawarma, but what about qawarma? The Lebanese dish is made every day in a hidden fast-food operation, tucked away in the Loop.

From the falafel to the qawarma, Abou Andre is quite a bit different from the run-of-the-mill Middle Eastern joint in Chicago. It's actually part of a brand based in Lebanon, and the falafel alone is worth a trip.

The fast-food style counter and the Loop location would lead you to believe Abou Andre is just like every other Middle Eastern joint in the city. But this company, with a 35 year history and eight locations in Lebanon, focuses exclusively on Lebanese cuisine.

"What that means is we don't have gyros here, we don't do saganaki, we don't have any types of pasta," said Robert Magiet, general manager of the Abou Andre location, which is owned by brothers Jad Lutfi and Farid Lutfi.

The two items that set Abou Andre apart from its Middle Eastern brethern in Chicago are the qawarma and the falafel.

"We really focus on our falafel. We have a fava bean falafel that's very unique. Most places make their falafel with chickpeas, which we don't," said Magiet.

That means running the favas through the grinder twice, so they come out of the fryer light and fluffy. Even better when dipped into one of their three types of tahini, which include a sweeter ketchup-laced one, as well as a spicier version. Kebabs are solid, as is the hummus, but the qawarma is one of those dishes you rarely, if ever, see in a fast food Middle Eastern joint.

Lamb and beef are ground up in the morning, seasoned well with cumin, salt and pepper, and then added to pine nuts that have been heated up in clarified butter. The resulting dish is then served over hummus or other homemade spreads.

"Inside the qawarma it comes with, it's ground beef and lamb with some spices; it also gets topped with some pine nuts and we make it on top of a bed of hummus, we make it in our wraps," he said.

The kebabs are also excellent, as is a freshly-made mango yogurt smoothie.

Abou Andre
60 E. Jackson
(312) 386-1300