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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Hamada Sheraton: Egyptian Street Food Royalty in Heliopolis
Looking past all the glitz and the glamour, the Cairo restaurant scene boasts a few home-grown gems. Starting out as a small foul cart with one idra, Hamada Sheraton is famous for feeding the masses; dedicated crowds would wait, on average, around an hour just to get their order in. Gaining massive popularity as the go-to place for sohour during the month of Ramadan, that success paved the way for a restaurant on the same street.
There are no pretences about this place; you'd be lucky enough to find a table let alone a clean one. The store runs a tight ship and patrons are expected to follow procedure; first, pay and order at the cashier before standing in line to collect your food from the huge, aluminium platters.
We were given the choice between home-made, shami and balady, as well as our preferred fixings (1LE-8LE) - the choices of which vary depending on the the type of sandwich you're going for. At breakfast time, we pulled out all the stops and ordered two foul in flaxseed oil sandwiches (1.5LE each), two falafel sandwiches (1.25LE each), a French fries sandwich (2LE), fried egg sandwich (2.50LE), baba ghanough sandwich (1.50LE), fried eggplant sandwich (1.50), sarookh sandwich (3.50LE) and a shakshooka sandwich (1.50LE).
Bare in mind that this is Egyptian fast food – essentially gastronomical Russian roulette – which is definitely not something to rely on in terms of flavour or quality consistency. At the time of our visit, some of the sandwiches were good, whilst others, not so much.
The foul in flaxseed oil is a store specialty and rarely disappoints; this time was no exception, though it was a little on the salty side. The falafel sandwiches were smothered in tahina and a chopped salad which added a little extra crunch to the mouth-watering ensemble. Staples of Egyptian street food, the sarookh - a blend of almost every item on the menu - and shakshooka - eggs, herbs, and meat - sandwiches were made using the store's own recipe and were an appetizing reminder of weekend family breakfasts. The worst of the lot was the baba gghanough sandwich which was unfortunately both too runny and too salty.
Hamada certainly won't be winning any awards any time soon, but for the hungry commuter or a group of friends with little time and even less money, this local eatery and their authentic menu is sure to satisfy almost everybody.
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.