If your experience with Gypsy Queen Cuisine involved chasing a falafel-packing food truck around town for a fix, you’ll be happy to know that you can stop running. That’s because, in the original Nona Mia location off Patton Avenue, Gypsy Queen has opened up a brick-and-mortar restaurant for its popular Eastern Mediterranean fare.
The food truck still roams the streets, but on a recent Thursday evening I gave up the chase and headed for the West Asheville eatery. The inside of the restaurant is small, but feels open and airy due to the high ceilings. The walls are a vibrant gold and cream with the exposed ducting painted a contrasting subdued brick pattern; it’s colorful but not garish. Fixtures and surrounding artwork also lend to the overall Mediterranean feel of the space.
Ordering is simple; step up to the counter and pretend you’re at the window of a Chevy step van. Beverages aren’t extensive, but you will find more options than truck-side, including Lebanese beer and wine.
What’s great about GQC is that you can order a quick falafel wrap to go, or settle in for a bigger meal. I came hungry, so I opted to settle in for a few different dishes.
First things first, we’d need some baba ghanoush. I’ve been working on perfecting my version, but GQC’s rendition was pretty exceptional. With its creamy consistency and that inherent smokiness, this dip, served simply with wedges of pita, was a great starter. My one complaint was that the pita wasn’t homemade, a change that would make this app outstanding.
My interest was piqued by the Lebanese fries, which came hand-cut in a hearty helping. They were fried crispy, tossed in garlic aioli and then drizzled with tahini. Flavors of sesame and garlic swam together and provided an original take on the basic fry. For fifty cents extra, you could add a small cup of house hot sauce which, of course, I did. The sauce had medium heat and creamy consistency, adding a nice extra layer of flavor to the potato.
After the fries, it only seemed right that we redeem ourselves with some vegetables. We targeted fattoush for the task. What we received was a traditional salad of chopped romaine lettuce, mint, parsley with lots of other veggies like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumber. Crisp pita chips were scattered around, providing a little crunch. Everything was tossed in a sumac vinaigrette that was both tangy and citrusy. The overall taste of the salad was heavily herbaceous and the refreshing intermezzo we needed.
Main dishes at GQC are mainly of the wrap persuasion, which is fitting coming from a chef with a street-food background. My wife ordered up the falafel wrap. It was enough for two and leftovers from it and the aforementioned dishes made their way home for later. The falafel here had notes of garlic and plenty of herbs in the patty mix. The patties were sidled up with tomatoes, parsley, pickled turnips and heavily dressed in a tahini dressing making sure that this wrap was well sauced and full of flavor.
For me it was going to be the Lamb Shawarma, another wrap offered at GQC. Inside the pita were thin slices of tender-roasted lamb, warmly seasoned with spices including, notably, cumin. The wrap was made complete with lettuce, creamy hummus, tomato, a minty cabbage slaw and pickled Lebanese cucumbers, giving a little crunch and acidity to the wrap.
Both were good examples of how well thought-out something as seemingly simple as a wrap can be. Neither dish was content with just the standard lettuce and tomato accompaniments. Each had several layers of flavors and textures, resulting in a wrap that kept your interest piqued for the eating of the whole gargantuan thing.
With all we sampled, it was hard to believe we had room for anything else. Yet an ice cream cooler full of Asheville’s own Sugar & Snow gelato was staring right at my daughter, or rather she was staring at it. So, while she handled a scoop of chocolate chip, my wife and I split a piece of baklava. The pastry was crisp, the pistachio filling was thick and every aspect was cooked perfectly. Yet, there was an overwhelmingly floral taste to the dessert. This isn’t at all nontraditional, often rose or lavender is used in baklava, but in most renditions we eat here in the states it’s not that prevalent. So, for me, it was too strong; for others, it might be right up their alley.
I really had very little to complain about at GQC. The prices are reasonable, the food is flavorful, the service is friendly and fast and the portions are incredibly generous. Gypsy Queen is everything we love about food trucks — an opportunity to sample something different, unique and enjoyable. Now that this truck has a storefront, we always know where to find great falafel.
IF YOU GO
The restaurant: Gypsy Queen Cuisine, 808 Patton Ave., 828-575-2758, www.gypsyqueencuisine.com
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Dish to try: Start with the Lebanese fries and finish with a well done version of their classic falafel wrap.