I visited Krog Street Market again last week, where if you don’t Instagram pictures of your food you are out of place. Dude and I decided to go early, right when Fred’s Meats and Bread and neighboring Yalla were opening at 11:30, to beat the Friday lunch rush. It was a critical move, and completely necessary if you need to get back to work in a reasonable amount of time.
The first time I went to the KSM food court, Fred’s was only open a week. Yalla was only serving dinner while Fred’s then closed – they share resources and this made it more manageable during the initial settling in period. This time, by 12:30 when we left, they were both slammed. The line at Yalla must have been thirty minutes long.
The problem has been documented a few times, including the recent AJC review by John Kessler, where I agree with some things, but also contend some points, but the fact remains – the lines can be long and the ordering process has a good bit to do with it.
But I’ll start with what I ordered first – the porchetta sandwich at Fred’s. They didn’t have it ready the first time I visited, I was keenly aware because it was the sandwich I most wanted to try. I greatly enjoy porchetta, in all forms, of which there are many. It’s a loose term for a pork roast, but varies greatly depending on the geography and circumstances, the cooking method, the parts of the pig, and the way it’s sliced. I’ve done all belly roasts, I’ve had the famous crunchy, juicy sandwich at Porchetta in NYC which is cut into more haphazard chunks. At Toscano & Sons, they serve a super thin and tender version more reminiscent of cured and pressed deli meat. The version at Fred’s is sliced as thin, but with a more varied texture and consistency, more like how one would slice their own turkey sandwich after Thanksgiving vs the turkey one finds at the deli counter.
All that’s to say – porchetta can be a lot of things, some versions I like better than other, and this sandwich is great. The pork is juicy (and greasy) and packed with flavor, held together with mayo and offset by a slightly bitter “salsa verde”. Unlike Kessler, I think the hefty ciabatta is perfect, and probably has the most staying power of any of the breads barely holding together Fred’s voluptuous sandwiches, meaning it’s likely the sandwich that would best retain its prowess if taking the sandwich to-go.
We also sampled the clarified butter and Old Bay fries, and they are a treat that I thankfully split with someone else.
We ordered from Yalla while waiting for the porchetta. A handful of others were mulling around, trying to figure out the menu. Most items can be ordered in a pita, a laffa (more like a burrito), or a bowl. The salatim is only ordered in a bowl, I think. One of the specials caught our eye too – the schawarma laffa packed with roast meat, fried eggplant, pickles and various condiments from the salatim selection.
For the salatim, they start with the moderate sized bowl and spread a layer of hummus and babaganoush around the edge, then it becomes a choose-your-own-adventure affair, not dissimilar from a burrito joint.
But this is where the problem lies. Old guys like this one below* stand there and inquire about twenty of the thirty available pickles, spreads, sauces, olives, and roasted and marinated vegetables. Assemblers are ever patient and definitely take their time to make it look pretty (imagine a painter with delicate strokes making the harrisa settle in just so vs the guy at Willy’s spoon slopping the guac at lighting speed and you have an idea of what’s going on.)
* that’s Dude
It is a beautiful spread, everything is as well prepared as you’d expect from this crew. I’d like a little more hummus to tie the room together, and I think with a well laid plan I could choose a more balanced assortment. We somehow got falafel we didn’t mean to get, but was glad, as it’s great. Toothsome, but not heavy.
The best option at Yalla to me is the special schawarma laffa. It’s a hefty wrap with everything you could want: meat + veg, crunchy, spicy, pickly, and creamy. Importantly, the decisions for what to include has been expertly made for you, reducing analysis paralysis and speeding up the line. Again I disagree with Kessler on the bread. We cut it in half to share and had no issue with the chewy, fresh bread falling apart as he did.
I’ve often felt that Starbucks should have two lines – one for people getting the latest holiday creation with five ingredients, and another for those who can place and receive their order in under fifteen seconds, “medium coffee” (Side note: I refuse to use Starbuck’s proprietery names for coffee sizes.)
I had the same thought about Yalla, but I don’t know they really have the space to accommodate two ordering methods, or if that idea would really play out successfully.
For now, I’d just go there early, and while it will be tough for me to choose anything over Fred’s (poor Grand Champion guys, it almost looks like people are in your line, but it’s just spillover from Yalla), the pre-made specials, especially this style of schawarma laffa, are the best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean ingredient based wraps I’ve ever tasted. When put that way, maybe lines make sense.