Ever since I was a baby, my family and I used to go out to eat at Sahara (a popular mediterranean restaurant located only in the state of New Jersey). Their original location was in New Bruinswick, New Jersey, and they recently opened up another location closer to my home in Manville, New Jersey which has remained closed since Hurricane Ida. During the pandemic, when my family and I did a LOT of takeout, we would frequently order from the Manville location. But now that things have been easing up, and the mask mandate in New Jersey has been lifted, we decided to take a blast to the past, and go out to eat at the original location.
When we sat down and took a look at the menu, we immediately noticed some of our favorite appetizers, including: the House Hummus, the Calamari, and the Sigara Boregi. And of course, we ordered all three.
At both the Manville and New Bruinswick locations, Sahara has wood-fired ovens used for baking their infamous and delicious pita bread topped with a few sesame seeds. And though this is an automatic addition to every meal, it’s still a fan favorite. My family usually likes to pair the pita bread with the House Hummus (hummus topped with cherry peppers, olives, roasted garlic, olive oil, and parsley).
As for the Calamari, though it’s quite standard, it’s always appreciated. The Sigara Boregi on the other hand is an interesting play on the Greek tiropita, I find. On the Sahara website, it’s described as “Phillo scrolls stuffed with feta and dill, pan fried till golden brown and served with cajik sauce”. I don’t typically like cheese-stuffed ANYTHING. But for some reason, I really seem to enjoy these every single time we order them. Sadly when we went, we ordered these but they never came! They were definitely missed, but we had also severely over-ordered so any more food would’ve left us with lots of things to bring home in a tiny box.
In terms of salads, my family and I have two staple salads that we absolutely adore. These being the Tabouleh Salad (with parsley, tomatoes, scallions, and brown wheat flavored with lemon juice and olive oil) and the Fattoush Salad (with Romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and onions, topped with toasted pita tossed with sumac, lemon juice, and olive oil). The Tabouleh is a salad that my parents mostly enjoy. I feel like with the finely chopped ingredients, it has a very grassy feel to it. I find that the tomato gives the salad more vibrance, as well as helps tone down the grassy-ness of the chopped parsley. The Fattoush is my personal favorite. I find that the toasted pita and onions really bring the rest of the salad and its flavors together. For both the Tabouleh and the Fattoush, I believe that the lemon juice really gives the salad that mouth-watering punch that it needs to keep you wanting more, as well as gives it a great and distinct flavor.
As for entrees, we typically order a few things. The Chicken Chops for me, the Fresh Mozzarella Flatbread for my sister, and the Braised Beef Short Ribs for my parents to share. As someone who is typically not a fan of chicken, I do have to admit that these Chicken Chops have something on me. The perfectly charred surface of the chicken thighs not only makes for an amazing first bite, but also flavors the rest of the chicken with that irresistable grilled flavor. It’s served over white rice, and with an assortment of vegetables. The Fresh Mozzarella Flatbread initially looks like a pizza at first glance. But, when you cut a slice, and take a bite, you realize it really IS a flatbread. The shape of the flatbread is circular (thus its initial pizza appearance), but the layers of dough, sauce, and mozzarella are so thin, that it’s actually surprising that so much flavor can even be packed in there! Lastly, the Braised Beef Short Ribs. When I first tried a bite, I was tantalized by how tender the meat was. It’s so flavorful, and tender that you always want to go back for a second bite. The meat is usually supposed to be served on top of couscous, but my parents like to make a small switch, and have it atop of white rice (which the beef pairs amazingly with).
As you can tell, for four people, we over-ordered. But, the food at Sahara is just so tasty that you can’t help but want to try it all. Out of all the menu items I listed, three that I highly reccomend for any Sahara-goer are the Sigara Boregi, the Chicken Chops and the Braised Beef Short Ribs. All three of these are foods that I don’t feel the meal would be complete without.
Overall, Sahara has been a staple restaurant for my family ever since I was born. And I believe that it will continue being a staple for us for as long as it’s around.