New York – Two feet of snow, catching up with “Making a Murderer” on Netflix and dreaming about beach season; these are the things that I can imagine went through most New Yorker’s minds this weekend. Yet while everyone else was locked inside their dwellings with nowhere to go, I was soaking up the sun in Southern Florida. I was contemplating going to the beach, a mere five minute drive from my hotel without any traffic. In addition to maximizing the amount of time I spent hanging outside without any precipitation, as always I was out on the hunt for unique halal food that I could report back on. Though you might be thinking I happily stumbled into a Miami joint serving halal Cuban, my travels this time took me to a halal joint that serves up Italian, South Asian, and Chinese. Yeah, this one might take a little bit of an explanation.
Ellie’s Desi Kitchen in Cooper City, Florida was founded over a decade ago by a local Italian woman, Ellie, who strived to bring the taste of Italian culture to the local Muslim population. Sadly, a few years back, Ellie became quite ill and passed away leaving behind her namesake institution. Rather than selling off the property, Ellie’s partner, a Pakistani individual, decided to take on the responsibilities of continuing Ellie’s legacy. He also decided to put his own spin on things by introducing dishes and reinventing some American classics with South Asian and Chinese flair to reflect his own background.
With story in hand, and after a couple hours of swimming in the Atlantic, I took my large appetite to Ellie’s and ordered a delectable array of meaty sandwiches to quell the hunger. Like I mentioned, the vast array of different cuisines that Ellie’s touches upon can be a bit worrying. So, I decided that grabbing one of Ellie’s originals, one of the newer South Asian inspired sandwiches, and something to reflect the local culinary scene would be a good way to test just how up to par Ellie’s chefs were. After a short wait, the humongous sandwiches came out from the kitchen and the feasting began.
First up was Ellie’s spicy chicken sandwich. This item has been on the menu since opening and it is easy to see why it has been such a crowd pleaser. An overflowing amount of fried chicken breast is stuffed between your choice of hearty sub bread or wrap topped off with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The chicken itself is nice and crispy without becoming a grease pool and is nicely spiced to add just a bit of heat. The bread is hearty enough to hold all the fixings in place and doesn’t get soggy as a lesser bread might have.
Staying on the chicken route, I ended up taking a nice bite of the jerk chicken. Some places think jerk chicken involves loading up on corn syrup laden premade sauce or just being a jerk to your mouth with the amount of spice on the chicken. Quite surprisingly, Ellie’s was able to balance the hint of spice you taste on the chicken’s dry rub with a jerk sauce that added a bit of sweetness from the molasses that wasn’t overly cloying.
With all the chicken out of the way, it was time to eat up the last bad boy on the table, the steak sandwich. Though at first glance the aman style sub simply looks like a Philly cheesesteak, after that first initial bite, you can already tell something is different about this beast. The aman style sub comes with all the traditional cheesesteak toppers; cheese, mayo, peppers, and onions. However, the veggies are cooked with some tangy Indian spices that make it seem like this creation came out of a kitchen from New Delhi as opposed to a strip mall joint in Florida. Though Ellie’s spicy chicken sandwich might be the restaurant’s past, this steak sub–also coming in chicken–is Ellie’s future.
Ellie’s Desi Kitchen; 12161 Sheridan St; Cooper City, FL 33026; (954) 436-1231.
Editor’s Note: Sameer Sarmast is President and Executive Producer of Sameer’s Eats, the only halal food review web blog and video channel on YouTube. Sameer has been recognized by local and national media outlets as well as the U.S. State Department for his efforts in highlighting halal cuisine. Sameer resides and works full time in New Jersey as a Vice President in Wealth Management for a major financial institution. When he isn’t working, he loves to travel and spend time with his friends and family. Follow him on twitter @SameersEats. The views expressed here are his own.