Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A coffee bar's nutritious food is a big lure

A Personal (Half) Steak Sandwich on whole-wheat bread, above, at Aroma Espresso Bar in Paramus, an Israeli chain's first U.S. branch outside of Manhattan and Miami.
Aroma's Vegetable Jambalaya delivers a chewy, spicy meal in a bowl without the usual sausage.

An Israeli import is showing more established coffee shops how to lure and keep customers with great food.

With a white, red and black color scheme, Aroma Espresso Bar at the Garden State Plaza shopping center in Paramus resembles an outdoor cafe brought indoors.

The menu offers 13 sandwiches, 10 salads, all-day breakfast, fresh juices, pastries and, of course, lots of coffee, including Turkish Coffee ($2.25), which I've never seen before outside of South Paterson's Middle Eastern food district.

Take that, Starbucks. 

Customers order at the counter, right, then wait for their food or drinks near the kitchen, left. Sandwiches are prepared to order, according to the menu.

Just the names of some of the salads make my mouth water: Sweet Potato Lentil, Warm Garbanzo, Organic Quinoa and Halumi. Salads are $7 and up.

Besides Turkish Coffee, Aroma Espresso Bar's Israeli origins are evident in such menu offerings as  Hot Sachlav Pudding, described as "a sweet, milk-based pudding flavored with rose water and garnished with coconut walnuts and cinnamon" ($3.95).

Shakshuka, one of the breakfasts, is a mild tomato, onion and pepper sauce topped with 2 eggs sunny side up, served with tahini sauce, and bread and butter ($9.90).

On Tuesday, my teenage son raved about the spicy Steak Sandwich ($6.50 for half), and he convinced my wife, who arrived later, to order one, too. 

I loved the thick, chewy, meat-free Vegetable Jambalaya, one of the soups of the day ($4.95).

When I ordered my wife's half sandwich and the soup at the same time, I got a discount for a "double-up combo," paying $10.50 for both instead of $11.45.  

The menu is so extensive, Aroma Espresso Bar qualifies as another casual-dining option at the Paramus mall, which has a California Pizza Kitchen and a Zinburger nearby.

But Aroma's menu seems to offer more healthy fare than the others, and lots of vegetarian or non-meat dishes. 

Aroma Espresso Bar, Westfield Garden State Plaza, 1 Garden State Plaza (use J.C. Penney entrance), Paramus; 201-556-1700. Closed Sundays. 

Web site: Wake up and smell the Turkish Coffee   

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