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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Our love of the awesome falafel at Taïm knows no bounds, but I'd never been to Balaboosta, Taïm's fancier off-shoot, despite the fact that it's only a couple blocks from our office. I'm not sure what I was waiting for. They've got a killer lamb burger (which we'll be seeing more of soon) and some addictively salty battered and fried olives served with tangy labné. Sort of like the Middle Eastern version of fried pickles and mayo (though I daresay tastier).

Also great on their lunch menu: the Goat Cheese Panino ($12), which comes with a well-dressed arugula salad. A really good split ciabatta with a nice crisp crust and tender crumb with just enough chew gets stuffed with goat cheese, sweet roasted red peppers, grilled planks of zucchini, and kalamata olives with a tasteful smear of pesto (I can't stand an over-pestoed sandwich). It's nothing groundbreaking in its conception—you'll probably find a similar sandwich on a quarter of the lunch menus in the city—but it's exceptional for its balance and execution. This is the grilled vegetable panino you picture in your head when you see it on the menu. How many other restaurants deliver on their promises like that?

Balaboosta

214 Mulberry Street, New York NY 10012 (map)
212-966-7366
balaboostanyc.com

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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