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Al Azhar, Cairo, Egypt.
Gad: Egyptian Feteer Surprises in Al Azhar
There is no better way to recharge after such a spree than a sit-down meal of Egyptian comfort food at Gad, a bustling fast-food chain with a location in Old Cairo.
Gad in Khan El Khalili serves up hearty Eskandarany liver sandwiches (6LE-8LE) made at a grilling station downstairs that make for a quick and satisfying meal. Other options for a meal-on-the go include the standard taameya sandwiches (1.50LE), juicy chicken shawerma (8LE-15LE) and lentil soup (7LE), the latter of which is served on the spicy side.
The place is often packed with a mix of Egyptians, tourists and students of nearby Al Azhar University. It can take a bit of manoeuvring to make the cooks at the take-away counter notice you, or to find a clean table. But the staff are friendly, even during a rush.
The dining room upstairs is perfect for savouring longer meals with friends. It is unpretentious and homey with its dark-wood panelling, potted ivy plants and a TV that often plays a random mix of local programming.
Aside from the taameya and foul dishes, you can choose from a full grill menu that includes chicken (22LE-37LE), shish kabab (37LE+) and grilled pigeon (55LE), as well as rice (6LE-18LE), pasta (9LE) and fish dishes (25LE-33LE).
But it is easy for non-Arabic speakers to overlook what we think is the tastiest offering at Gad.
The delicious dish that is called feteer in Arabic is listed as "pancakes" on the English side of the menu. But this dish has nothing in common with the North American pancakes made from batter and topped with maple syrup, or with the European crepes. The ‘pancakes’ at Gad are made from what more closely resembles pizza dough, but they are softer and chewier than pizza, with a stuffed centre and crispy edges.
The dish's name might get lost in translation, but good food is a universal value and Gad's pancakes can quickly become addictive. Our favourite from the wide array on the menu were pancakes with sausages (22LE). This dish features juicy sausage slices, cheese and green peppers between two layers of salty dough. Other fillings include minced meat (26LE), mushrooms (23LE) and beef or chicken shawerma (26LE).
The dessert pancakes with sugar (9LE) are made with multiple layers of sugary dough that's soft and mouth-watering. The sweet pancakes can also be topped with whipped cream, or filled with nuts, fruits, raising and coconut.
The simple menu and friendly, if at times slow, service, make Gad a choice spot to unwind from the bustle of Khan El Khalili and explore lesser-known Egyptian dishes.
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.