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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Alex Top: Cheap, Quick Koshary in Zamalek
Cheap food options, especially koshary, are slim pickings when it comes to the Cairo neighbourhood of Zamalek. It's a staple in many Egyptians’ lives, and most people crave a tub of fresh, hot koshary every now and then. This Egyptian fast-food outlet not only serves koshary; but other options as well.
Although it’s just a hole in the wall on Taha Hussein Street just before Yamama Centre and Munch & Bagel, Alex Top seems to keep Zamalek patrons satisfied. Many opt for takeaway or delivery, but dining is available inside as well. Reminding us of a bingo hall, chairs are lined along card tables; providing more of a communal dining experience.
Our favourite part of dining on site is the little pitchers that they provide, filled with oil and spices. If you prefer ordering takeaway or delivery, you will receive those pesky little plastic bags oozing with sauces. When it comes to koshary, Alex Top likes to get creative. Sizes start with the Super Exclusive and go up to include the Fuel and Special. If you’re feeling extra hungry, the Alex Top Family is huge and costs around 9LE.
For 4LE, the Super Exclusive portion always does the trick. While it could have done with more chickpeas and deliciously fried onions, finishing the entire bowl has always been feasible. When comparing to other koshary places around, their koshary tends to have a more even flavour. The oil’s garlic is in abundance while the spicy sauce is never too hot, providing great texture to the dish. Alex Top doesn’t stop there; for 10LE and up, other dishes are offered, including a variety of tagine dishes featuring chicken and beef.When you're in Zamalek and in need of a cheap, quick meal, Alex Top is your best bet. The customer service is efficient and quick; both on site and in its delivery. As for delivery experience, the koshary is still warm by the time it reaches us, and considering the delivery charge is only 2LE – it’s a safe bet.
With plenty of new restaurants opening as fast as lightning and raising the bar for fine dining in Cairo, the interest in fast food venues is waning – even burger and pizza places are putting more focus on being gourmet. But, located on Zamalek’s busy 26th of July Street, roasted chicken specialist, Chick Shack, proves that the fast food concept is still popular in Cairo.
Not to be confused in any way with popular American chain, Shake Shack, the eatery’s name attracted some negative attention, but it all played into its publicity. The name is where the similarities end, though; Chick Shack stands out with a unique interior and playful vibe of its own. Some of its standout features include its ringed chandelier, an interesting choice of cold colours and a wall made of A-Treat soda boxes, not to mention the quirky staff uniforms made-up of buttoned-to-the-top shirts, grey trousers, suspenders and hats that Michael Jackson would have been proud of.
The menu is quite simple, with roasted chicken as the main attraction, though other items include Lasagna (34LE), Potato Wedges (8LE), or Tropical Salad (18LE) and can work as side dishes.
We started our meal with Shack Salad (28.50LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we went with Half Chicken Meal (55LE) and Chicken Cannelloni (27LE).
A mixture of grilled chicken, green apple cubes, corn, bell pepper, pomegranate and mayo dressing, the Shack Salad was an interesting concoction. We loved the tart taste from the green apple which worked well with the pomegranate and the sweet-corn, but the chicken itself was overcooked and very tough.
Now, let's move to what we actually came for: roasted chicken. Served with sautéed vegetables which had a remarkable garlicky flavour and possibly the best spicy basmati rice, which was cooked to perfection and bursting with Mexican spices, the roasted chicken was well-marinated and had a zesty flavour which popped in every single bite. However, the chicken itself was a little bit undercooked but definitely not raw, and even though it was very tasty, the skin wasn’t as crispy as we would've hoped.
We were worried about the ready-to-serve Chicken Cannelloni, but it was surprisingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and peppers which had flavours similar to fajitas, the cannelloni was well-cooked and had a generous amount of cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sloppy presentation aside, the cannelloni made for a great vehicle for the chicken.
Overall, there was little to complain about at Chick Shack. The venue stands out as one of the healthier fast food places in Cairo; one that also boasts fantastic service, great staff and a friendly atmosphere. The only downside is that there are no desserts to speak of – but with the concept built on a ready-to-serve approach, maybe a soft serve ice cream machine would be a perfect fit. But that’s just us.