Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Amore Cafe

This past weekend we went to Amore Cafe. For full disclosure, a friend of ours works there. However, we are not the type to sway our opinion of a place for that reason, in fact we are likely to be more critical, because we know the level of customer service our friends are likely to offer their customers.
Belly dancer

Overall: 4.5/5
Atmosphere 4/5
Food: 5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Noise level: fluctuates from quiet to moderately loud
TV: yes
Wifi: No
live music/entertainment: some nights jazz band, some nights belly dancer

She says:
Amore Cafe has been around for a while, but recently has been under new ownership and management. It is a hookah cafe on the North west side of town, near Military and 1604. It is nestled in a shopping center with three busy nightclubs.

First Impression:


Our first impression, from the parking lot it has a nice sign, chairs and tables out front. We are not likely to sit outside because the view is mostly of cars. Management told us that they will be putting up an awning over the tables, and make it a nicer place to sit. However this would be a great place to sit if you like to people watch and check out all the folks club-hopping. The exterior speakers are a bit loud, likely to cover the sounds of the nearby clubs. Inside the music is somewhat softer, though the volume fluctuates with what is going on.

The inside is nicely decorated in earthy tones and jewel tones. Couches with patchwork brocade and pillows, with a bit of privacy provided by some beautiful screens gives you a sense of intimacy when sitting with your date and/or your friends.

Initially the music was a bit harsh and unpleasant - when I go to a restaurant with a particular cultural or ethnic background, I want to hear that culture's music. I love middle-eastern music, and the rhythmic drumbeats tend to help me relax. A quiet word to a member of the staff switched the music from 80's rock to what I was hoping to hear. So the tendency towards loud or jarring music is well balanced by the responsiveness of staff to the needs and requests of their patrons.

These wooden screens were nice, not a fan of the tv screens though.
The big downside for me was the presence of televisions playing the basket ball game. I don't know about other people, but for me, going to a hookah place is about smoking some good shisha, eating some good middle eastern food and talking and relaxing with friends. Sports games don't have a place in that - yet - with the location of this place, I can see where it appeals to some of the guests. I would recommend limiting it to one tv, or arranging them so it is possible to sit somewhere and NOT see a screen.

The Food:

Nomnomnomnom. Sorry - I have been dying for a good shawarma, as I have not had any since I moved from Houston, where I would get them at Droubi's. Naara, one of our other favorite places, does not offer it. So when I saw shawarma on the menu, I knew right away what I was going to order for dinner. The appetizer offerings were ok, but not a lot of what I like (as we know I am the finicky one), so we ordered the hummus. I am meh on hummus most of the time, but when we ordered it I mentioned that I liked the oil they put on it, and so they brought it to us and it was amazing. Best hummus I have ever had. The pita were on the toasty side, which went well for it - but makes them harder to eat once cooled, however they will bring you more pita, so all is well. It is also a great value at only $4, if I recall correctly.

The shawarma was excellent. Sliced chicken, garlic sauce, tomato and pickle (I asked them to hold the lettuce because I don't like hot lettuce) and the flavors blended nicely. Thomas got a different chicken pita sandwich, which was tasty, but I liked the shawarma better. It was a good price, and we added french fries because we weren't in the mood for rice. The fries were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They were a bit on the salty side, but since the sandwiches were not salty it worked well together.

We enjoyed some Turkish coffee with our meal, only downside is it is served unsweetened, and so it took me a small cup or two to figure out how much sugar to add to get it where I like it - not a big problem, I was just used to getting it pre-sweetened elsewhere.

The hookah was interesting, as we decided to blend something different - jasmine and rose - very fragrant, but the jasmine is just a bit astringent and the rose couldn't balance it - so next we tried grape and rose on the recommendation of Cecelia, and it was...good, but not what I was expecting - I thought it would be more of a concord grape type flavor, but it was a muscat flavor - once over the surprised taste buds, it rapidly grew on us - I still prefer rose and raspberry - but the muscat grape offers some possibilities.

The Service:

The staff at Amore is focused on customer service. Jeanette was our waitress, and she was very polite and attentive. Brought out everything exactly as we ordered it, and kept our water glasses full. Frequently a staff member would drop by the table and see if we needed anything - sometimes that can be annoying at places, but they have managed to balance availability with respecting patron's space and privacy, and manage to ask in a non-needy non-intrusive way. Just a quick "How is everything? Can I get you anything?" and then they are off, and you are back to your conversation like nothing happened. We really like that - at the busiest point, we had at most a few minutes to wait in trying to get a staff members attention to get more coals, which is excellent.
Josh is pretty cool.

Overall:

We had a good time, and not just because our friend Josh works here. The other manager and the owner both came to chat with us and they are open-minded, friendly, and eager to provide an excellent experience for their guests. This place under the new ownership has a LOT of potential to be an outstanding chill place to hang out in the evening or late evening, and their plans for improvement are exciting. I recommend this place.

He Said:

Amore is the Hookah Cafe that Could....

The decor is nice and alters well with just lighting changes. Almost all of the tables are separated by gorgeous hardwood screens and it has a very tasteful contemporary feels that includes elements of Older Middle Eastern culture with just a touch of "hipness."

The couches were comfy and there were plenty of pillows to prop or adjust for personal comfort. The music was all over the map. American 80's and 90's when we showed up to "classic" Eastern music with a few modern sounding tracks. Till the belly dancer showed up and then it was just alternating too loud and then not loud enough. A suggestion to the staff was all it took to settle it down. They were very responsive to patron feed back.

2 big screen TV's dominated the room and even with the sound off were very distracting.

The crowd was a mix of slightly older middle aged folks to frat boys/sorority girls. Nobody made too much of a disturbing scene as you might expect with that kind of diversity.

Overall, it felt like a cool place that was just fighting to find it's own identity.

The food was really nice and in good portions for the price. I had the grilled chicken tawooka pita and Val got the Chicken shawarma. Both were very tasty and flavouful without being too alien in spices and texture.

We tried a blend of Rose and Jasmine in the hookah and it was a little harsh at first due to a combination of our inattentiveness and the staff's inexperience. A helpful young lady got our hookah all sorted out and everything was smooth.

Once again, in regards to the hookahs, a nice blend of contemporary and old school. The hookahs were just as nice as other hookah cafes I'd been to but had modern elements like no engraving or paint on the vases but the pipe part was very tasteful and modern. The Coal Guy was a little overzelous a couple times with our hookah but was quickly fixed.

Overall, Amore looks to have a good future. Being right in the middle of several clubs it offers an oasis of relaxation and if it decides to stay open late would make an excellent after hours meetup spot.

First it needs to settle into what it wants to be.

We'll be going back.





Amore Cafe Mediterranean Lounge on Urbanspoon

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