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Finding authentic food and community in Philadelphia

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

 

Swarthmore is home to students from a diverse range of backgrounds extending far beyond the swat bubble. Swarthmore is an incredible community to be apart of, but often we miss the ones we come from, whether that community is an old high school, religious, cultural or interest based community. Often we also tend to forget that in our own vicinity, there are endless places to go that can make us feel completely at home. After growing up in a multicultural household and a cosmopolitan city, not only do I miss the comfort of my own communities but also experiencing others and discovering the similarities. In my own household, everything was done over food; meeting new people, having family discussions, socializing, and family bonding often entailed us cooking together and trying out a new recipe. I guess this appreciation for gastronomy has followed me throughout college, whether I use cuisine as a way to find comfort in a familiar community or to explore a new one.

Aloosh, Abyssinia and Amada are three restaurants I visited recently that offer an authentic and local dining experience. Aloosh is a Middle Eastern restaurant and hookah lounge in the heart of University City that attracts a mixed crowd, including university students along with Middle Eastern natives. As you walk into Aloosh, the décor is incredibly authentic to the region. The interior is decorated with different shades of red, brown and gold with lanterns all over, along with mirrors on the walls in varied geometric shapes. There is an open seating plan that includes a cushioned seating area extending around the perimeter of the lounge, something very common to the Middle East. Walking into Aloosh definitely makes me feel like I am at home in Dubai for an evening. The smell of a standard grape-mint shisha (hookah) in the restaurant, the music choices, and the food specifically their shawarma has been my own microcosm of Dubai in Philadelphia. On weekends, there is a belly-dancer who even interacts with the customers by pulling them up to dance to traditional Arabic music — her bustier may even display the tips she has received that night. Aloosh has a special where you can order four appetizers for twenty dollars, along with an entire menu of a la carte Pan-Arab and American food.

Abyssinia was my first experience with Ethiopian food, and I absolutely loved it. The restaurant is budget friendly and authentic with delicious food. I had never eaten Ethiopian food and was relatively stuck on what to order, so I asked the waiter to recommend the most popular dishes and went from there. I enjoyed the Injera, beef tibs and the meat combination platter. Their menu also has a separate section of vegetarian and vegan dishes – I tried the Ye’Misir Wot, which is split lentils in berbere sauce, simmered in basil, fresh crushed garlic, onions, and herb spices. As someone who does not particularly like vegetables, I surprisingly enjoyed it!

Classy yet cozy, Amada is an incredible Spanish tapas restaurant that also partakes in restaurant week. The restaurant has an incredibly fun and Hispanic atmosphere. There is a wall that is lined with lanterns along with seating that has pebbles under the tables. Since Amada is tapas style, the restaurant week menu allows you to order two appetizers, two entrees and one dessert. It can often be hard to find a place for restaurant week that is vegetarian friendly; I visited Amada with three vegetarian friends who had absolutely no problem with variety or choice, and who thoroughly enjoyed their meal. At Amada, you can order tapas as you go, and your food is served a few plates at a time, instead of making you decide absolutely everything you want at the start of the meal. Amada is famous for its tinto sangria, and I personally enjoyed the grilled scallops, lamb and shrimp. Their menu features charcuterie with the most amazing cheeses, meats and spreads. Overall, the service is fantastic and the waiters are more than willing to give you recommendations, especially in regard to dietary restrictions.

 

Whether it is the Middle Eastern feel of Aloosh, the authentic Ethiopian cuisine of Abyssinia or the vibrant Spanish atmosphere of Amada, Philadelphia offers incredible dining experiences that extend far beyond what the Swat bubble is able to provide. Take the time to go explore something new this weekend!

 

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