Picnicking at the Yalla Kosher Food Truck

Hi, we’re back! If you missed our first review on Gastronomic SLC about House of Corn in Sandy, here you go. And when you’re done reading that, uh, masterpiece (which after publishing, a reader pointed out we misspelled al pastor), let’s move on to our latest findings in the magical land of Sugarhouse in Salt Lake. Specifically, in Chabad Square on 1760 South 1100 East, where you will find Yalla Kosher Food Truck! For those that give a damn about falafel, this review is for you. Now, let’s go! 

This was a hotly-anticipated visit for us, which can be dangerous. Not to sound pretentious (“Too late” – you), but we cherish Mediterranean food, so our expectation levels were pretty high given what we’d already seen on social media. Yalla is closed on Saturdays because they don’t roll on Shabbat, so we decided to take a little lunch trip on a Sunday. As we entered the parking lot, we saw two teenagers devouring pita sandwiches on the curb. “How are they?” Ashlee inquired. “Mmmpp,” we heard through bitefuls. This was a good sign, so we walked up to the front counter to order. 

Yalla Kosher Food Truck - Truck Front with Woman
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – ordering counter

Per usual, we wanted to mix things up so we’d get a good sense of what this food truck is all about. Jason ordered a sabich pita sandwich, a food item he’s been fascinated by ever since seeing one on a travel show. A standard sabich contains fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, hummus, pickles, Israeli salad, tahini sauce, and a l’il something called amba, a pickled-mango sauce. Jason has made sabich from scratch at home before, and it looked like this:

Homemade sabich
Homemade sabich

(Just FYI: Amba can be hard to find in regular grocery stores, but we were able to source some at Shahrazad.) Our homemade sabichs were yummy, but Jason was anxious to try one made by a professional. Ashlee isn’t as into sandwiches as Jason (“WHICH IS A DIVORCEABLE OFFENSE” – Jason), so she opted for the beef kabob bowl. We also ordered half a dozen falafel balls, and the total without tip came to $37.71. Oye. How about that inflation, huh? We were told our order would take about 15 to 20 minutes, so we sat on the grass while the wafting aroma of spices and grilling meats tingled our senses. 

As we waited, a line of people began to form. At first, we thought, “Hahaha, looks like we got here in the nick of time!” and high-fived each other. Then, we started to realize most of these people were picking up their orders ahead of us. Ashlee laid on the park strip in anguish:

After a 35 minute wait, our order was ready, and here is the lesson we learned: Call ahead, friends. Especially if you have time constraints on your lunch break. Or! Say, if you’re in the mood for a leisurely picnic, grab a blanket and relax on the grass. Make an event out of it! Impress a date by asking, “Fancy a déjeuner at one of my favorite falafel stands?” That person will SWOON, we tell ya. Not bringing a blanket isn’t a ‘Big mistake. Big. Huge,’ moment, but your jeans might get mildly dampened like ours did, so… KNOW THAT. Alright, let’s take a look at our meal, starting with this moody pic of the sabich:

Yalla Kosher Food Truck - Moody Yalla Sabbich
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – sabich

Another view (after the clouds dissipated):

Yalla Kosher Food Truck - Moody Yalla Sabbich Yalla Sabbich (another view)
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – Yalla sabich

Starting with the pros, the eggplant had a nice chew and a wonderful deep, smoky flavor. The boiled eggs were cooked perfectly. The pita bread was delicious (more on that in a minute) and held up well, especially considering the sheer volume of contents it was holding. The Israeli salad was fresh, and the hummus and tahini sauce were among the best we’ve encountered.  Jason ordered it “spicy” and was very impressed with the green hot sauce (or “zhoug”) they gave us. 

Now with the cons: There was either no amba sauce at all, or at least no discernable amount of it in Jason’s sabich. DISAPPOINTING. We’re not sure if they were out that day, or if it was just a mistake, but amba was listed as an ingredient on their menu, and it was sorely missed in Jason’s sandwich. Also, the balance of ingredients ended up being on the “wet” side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the sandwich was kind of one note texturally. Jason felt like it could have used some pickles, or maybe the eggplant could have been crispier. Let’s move on to Ashlee’s dish:

Yalla Kosher Food Truck - Beef Kabob Bowl
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – beef kabob bowl

Okay, this was fucking fantastic. The beef kabobs were super flavorful and perfectly spiced. We really couldn’t get over what a terrific balance of seasonings they used in the meat! Our only quibble would be that the kabobs were a smidge on the dry side, but the rest of the bowl more than made up for it. The hummus was smooth and whipped to perfection. It definitely leaned more on the tahini side (whereas the garlic and lemon were hardly noticeable). The cabbage was dressed in something very light (maybe more tahini?) and added a nice crunchy, fresh element to the dish. The rice was stellar. And finally, the Israeli salad was fresh, if maybe a little overdressed. But HOLD THAT THOUGHT! Because when Ashlee assembled her leftovers into a pita sandwich later that night…

Yalla Kosher Food Truck - Leftover Sandwich
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – leftover sandwich

…the “overdressed” Israeli salad suddenly made a lot more sense. (“Dammit, Jason has a point about sandwiches!” – Ashlee.) As we touched on above, Yalla’s menu is a tad expensive for a food truck. Granted, that seems to be the case with just about everywhere these days, whether it’s because of inflation, supply chain issues, both, etc. As diners, we’re happy to help keep the local economy afloat during these trying times, but also understand that $12 sandwiches have a tendency to burn a hole in one’s pocket. If you’re hard up for cash, one thing you may want to consider with this food truck is to plan on eating it for two meals on the day you order it. They source their bread from International Marketplace (which we adore and will most certainly review someday), so the pita will stay pillowy in the middle and pliable on the outside, even if you neglect it for a few hours. Ashlee’s leftovers were just as good as her lunch, and that’s really saying something about Yalla. 

Last up is the falafel. For those familiar with our old blog, you absolutely know that we take falafel extremely seriously, to a possibly silly degree. To us, there is nothing better than a fresh-out-of-the-frying-pan chickpea ball, and there is nothing worse than a steamed, cold chickpea puck. Fortunately for Yalla, they fall into the former category! In fact, we found this falafel to be unique to SLC. 

Yalla Kosher Food Truck -Falafel Balls
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – Falafel Balls

Okay, first things first: always, always, ALWAYS eat falafel fresh. They don’t travel very well because they steam and lose all of their sexy crispiness very quickly. So when you order half a dozen like we did (or a full dozen, like we should have), park it on the grass or in your car or whatever, and gorge on them while they’re HOT. Capisce? Now let’s get back to Yalla. 

What struck us about their falafel balls is that they’re smaller and seem to have a coarser grind than other places we’ve tried. We laaaved the crispy outer texture and herbaceousness on the inside. You could easily visit the food truck for just a falafel snack and leave fully satisfied.

Yalla Kosher Food Truck -  Close Up of Falafel
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – Close Up of Falafel

Overall, we had a really good experience with Yalla Kosher Food Truck. It was clean, had friendly customer service, and we could tell that they use quality ingredients with care. We know we sounded like screaming monkeys about the lack of amba sauce in the sabich, but that’s just us. We’re weird about things. Don’t let that or the wait time dissuade you from visiting! Yalla is some of the best Mediterranean fare available in Salt Lake, and if you call ahead, you should be in good shape. Oh, and don’t sleep on the zhoug! It is THAT good!

Yalla Kosher Food Truck -  Jason Thumbs Up
Yalla Kosher Food Truck – gets the thumbs up


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