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“First Iraqi Food Experience was Great”

Al Azayem Restaurant
Ranked #71 of 325 Restaurants in El Cajon
Restaurant details
Reviewed 19 September 2016

This place was a great way to break into the world of Iraqi cuisine. It was clean and the people were friendly and there were so many choices. This is just a little hole in the wall, nothing fancy you can wear your jeans and eat alone and you feel just fine about it. The prices are so good for what you get. Every plate comes with a beautiful plate of fresh and pickled veggies.
My coworkers ate at the chains but I took this opportunity to try wonderful places like Al Azayem in El Cajon.

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2  Thank sftreat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 26 April 2016

My son and I went there in a moment of "hey, let's try something different." It's a little hole-in-the-wall, and walking up to it, one wonders if it's the right place (ie, don't blink, you'll miss it!). Walking in, the first thing that we noticed was the ambiance, which was awful-- it's definitely not trying for the ambiance award! However, the smell.... um. Now THAT was good food cooking, and by the amount of middle eastern families packed in the place, I could see we'd hit a local favorite.

The waitress came out, and we asked her a question. I could tell by the confused look and shy smile, she didn't speak much English. My Caldean is non-existant, so she go a young man from behind the counter to come out, and we ordered. My son had lamb and I had falafel. Both were delicious, and the portions were large.

The oddest thing though, is that the shy smiling waitress brought us soup--a barely mushroom-- without our asking. When I tried to point that out (afraid we'd gotten someone else's order) she just smiled, nodded, and walked away. Later, I would find out the restaurant does this for EVERYONE. If you walk in and sit down, they bring a bowl of soup to you. Free of charge! (I hate to tell them, but hungry patrons often order more....) The bottled water is also free of charge, and I've noticed that some of the smaller Caldean restaurants in town don't even stock glass ware. Patrons have their choice of sodas or bottled water, and I've never been charged for it, although the menus never state that it's free, it's just sort of a "given."

Our entire bill for dinner was just over $10 for two people. The food was delicious, and from what local middle eastern folks tell me, this is as close as you can get to authentic homemade stuff. You can even watch the men in the kitchen prepare your meal, since there is a glass fronted warmer in front of the kitchen. Everyone there, from the patrons to the workers, seems in a good mood, and my son and I felt welcomed.

This is definitely NOT a place you want to go to impress people. It's a local spot with great food and modest prices.... and the free soup and bottled water? I can only count that among the "hospitality" aspect of places, and a different culture....

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1  Thank inthewoods2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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