It’s down a long commercial street, far from downtown San Diego, in a little strip mall next to a hookah store and across the street from a pawn shop. Doesn’t matter. I implore you to make the trip to *Alforon, just for co-owner Samia Salameh’s smile and outsized personality. Oh, and for the out-of-this world Lebanese food.
Samia sits down at my table and after a minute or two of chatting, asks what I’d like. The $7 chicken tawook flatbread (a Mediterranean-style pizza), I say, asking if I should get the extra cheese or peppers. “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it for you. Some fresh lemonade, too? No? We have some unsweetened iced tea.”
The flatbread is a thing of beauty, with marinated chicken, little dollops of garlic paste and pickles atop undoubtedly the freshest, lightest pita I’ve ever tasted. When I ask if they make the pita, she looks offended. “Of course! What do you think Alforon means? Oven-baked flat breads,” she says, putting down a sampler of falafels to try, followed by a piece of zaatar (wild, imported thyme) flatbread and finished with a potent little pot of Turkish coffee. I’ll tell you, all this fabulous lunchtime food nearly finishes me.
I’m not the only one getting the special treatment. Samia sits at other tables and kibitzes in Arabic with the mostly male patrons, many of them students from the Middle East.
It’s unexpected, joyous experiences like this that make the long miles of road tripping worthwhile.
5965 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
Tuesday to Saturday 10:30 am-9 pm, Sunday 11 am-7 pm. “If someone offered us one million dollars, we wouldn’t open on Mondays.”