172 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Seth, having just returned from a summer in the Jordan, was craving Yemeni food. Yemeni restaurants are everywhere there, he told me, and the food is so cheap that it might as well be free. That's certainly not the case here, but it's far from expensive either. His cravings and my desire to spend very little money led us to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, an enclave of Arabian shops and restaurants.
Hadramout sits below street level and with all the junk and trash sitting on the street, doesn't look like much from the outside. To be honest, it doesn't look like much on the inside. A mural of the old country graces one wall. The furniture is dingy and old and there's not much about the place that makes one feel like they'd actually want to eat there. As soon as Seth and I walked in, the volume exploded. The patrons were sitting in one large group of clustered tables yelling screaming and pointing their fingers in conversation. Some guys would get up and walk over to another table, sit down, shoot the breeze for a bit, then go back to their first table. Hell, on more than one occasion, they'd just wander into the kitchen. Save the two American girls at the table next to us, there were no women. It was like eating in a boys-only clubhouse. Toss in a tap for cheap beer and some cigarette smoke, and you have the American version. Our waiter didn't notice us when we walked in, took his sweet time giving us the table we sat at, and then vanished. It was an effort getting to order. I don't want it to sound like I was uncomfortable, but I certainly felt like an outsider invading the social space of another group.
When you order food at Hadramout, it comes when it comes. Appetizer, entree, it's all the same. Seth and I ordered an appetizer each and an entree each and a bread. Our waiter's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "No. It's too much." That's fine, I told him, we'll just take the leftovers to go. "Are you sure? Very much food." It turns out, he was right and we were wrong. See, at Hadramout, when you order food here, they also give the table a huge salad to split. And they give you a boiling hot bowl of what I believe to have been a cumin broth. It was very good. When the bread arrived, I nearly had a heart attack. It was the size of a small pizza and we got four of them. By the time the real food started arriving, I was already pretty satisfied. For an appetizer, we ordered the Falafel and a Hummus. It turns out that the hummus was a completely redundant waste because the falafel came with its own hummus. Unfortunately, the falafel was bland and dry and the hummus was mediocre. I've honestly had far better of both at the Maoz chain.
For an entree (again, we didn't eat these in the order I'm writing about them), Seth ordered the Mendi with Selta, a lamb dish served in a cast iron pot. It arrived at the table literally boiling like brown oil and it took about twenty minutes to cool enough to be edible. The dish itself was somewhat bland, to be blunt, though Seth didn't think so. I would have added far more spices. I chose the Chicken Ghallaba. Almost everything came with rice or bread so, since we had a year's supply of bread already, it seemed to make sense not to get more. Chicken ghallaba is basically a diced chicken and vegetable stew. It was pretty good, but very greasy. Way too much fat. Utensils were few and far between. Most everyone ate with their hands.
If you want a non-traditional dining experience, one like in the movies where guys yell and scream and eat with their hands and you basically just lounge for four hours stuffing yourself to oblivion, Hadramout might be what you're looking for. But if you want even the smallest amount of refinement, then it's not for you. Seth enjoyed the place way more than I did so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I left wanting to have liked it more than I did, or even at all, but it just wasn't for me.
Chicken entrees averaged $11, lamb entrees averaged $16, and appetizers averages $6.
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