Ali Baba's

By Candace Nelson - 8:00 AM

I have only been to Ali Baba's once during my time in Morgantown. I don't remember much of the visit, except it was with one of my best friends who is no longer with us. I'm also pretty sure I wrote about it for the newspaper. (Edit: I did, three years ago)

It's located in the airport - not beside it - IN the actual airport. So you drive and park in the passenger area. It's odd to see the lack of security around the airport and whatnot. You enter the building and go up to the second level and follow the signs. It's like a miniature abandoned airport. There was no one around when my friend Mel and I first walked in, and we were essentially walking through empty terminals. It was strange. But then I saw a flashing sign reading "Ali Baba's," and suddenly this building was re-energized.

The large dining room is draping in beautiful reds, golds and greens. Some interesting lighting fixtures and draping make this a warm, inviting environment. Our server came over, menus in tow, to welcome us. I had a good idea of what I wanted from looking at their website, but I continued to narrow down my choices. I was immediately drawn to the Ali Baba specialties, of course. One of which was spinach lasagna. Interesting - lasagna at a Mediterranean restaurant? But it was a specialty. I was too curious to not try it. It came with a salad - a Mediterranean salad: hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh, or tahini. I opted for the hummus. But I needed some more Mediterranean flavor, so I ordered an appetizer of samboosas, too.

After a few minutes, we were greeted with two small plates - hummus for me and baba ghannouj for Mel. I'm pretty picky with my hummus, as I feel like it's just usually bland and strong. But I really enjoyed this hummus - the flavors were more subtle. The little kalmata olive on the top was also a nice touch. The texture of the mashed chickpeas was like whipped or pureed, and it's blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Served with pita bread, I ate my entire serving.

Shortly thereafter came our entrees. Mel got a kabob, and I got my lasagna - layers of pasta stuffed with spinach, onions and ricotta cheese, topped with marinara sauce and provolone cheese for $12.95. It tasted straight-up Italian, but I did love it. It was a large chunk, creamy, with a pretty flavorful sauce. I was impressed. I also tasted Mel's kabob - which was grilled chicken. I love that grilled, slightly smokey taste. Yum.

I asked our server where the samboosas were, and he went to check on them. Apparently there was some miscommunication, but they came out a few minutes later. I didn't mind eating them alongside my entree anyway. The samboosas were mega greasy (I soaked them in my napkin), but after that, the crispy fried thin pastry was delicious, stuffed full of the spicy meat and onion mixture. It came with a yogurt dipping sauce. Delicious!

For dessert, it was knafa - shredded dough stuffed with a mixture of sweetened ricotta cheese. Baked. Goodness. I love ricotta, so I was probably already sold on this one. But I like the depth of this dish. It was creamy, warm, gooey, creamy .. all those other words that make you say "mmm." Our waiter even gave us dessert on the house - most likely because the samboosas came out late. So I only paid around $20 for my meal.

If it's not along your main route, take a detour one evening. It'll be worth it. Oh, and we got to see airplanes taking off and landing right from our table. How awesome! I can't wait to get home and have my leftovers after this.

Grade: A
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  1. Glad to see you had a good experience at one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. Ali Baba actually was located in Westover when I first moved to Morgantown, early 80s, in the little strip building to the right of the Westover Dairy Mark/Circle K. Then it moved downtown next to where the Beanery is, before moving up the street into the old Spaceport building. Elias started the Mediterranean Market across the street before closing Ali Baba, moving up to Voyagers (the current airport location), selling the MM to the Speedy's guys, and redoing Voyagers into the current Ali Baba. He actually contributed money to the Airport Authority to help redo the roof on that side of the building and take out a wall that used to separate the main dining room from a hallway that used to run between the dining room and the windows to the runway. You ate in an airport hallway before if you wanted to watch the planes, which I did with my stepsons on more than a few occassions.

    Elias and his Ali Baba is a Morgantown institution at this point, and world class dining and people.

    By the way, that's a Beechcraft Baron G58 on the tarmac there. Nice flying plane. A guy I did some political work had one and I got to fly around WV, NC, and KY in it. Generally I dislike small planes, but it was fun, and having two engines is certainly more to my liking for low altitude flying than one. :)


    1. So he owned the Mediterranean Market, too? That's one of the few "mainstream" restaurants left in town I haven't reviewed. I really want to get there, and if the food is anything like Ali Baba's, I might have to move it to the top of my list.

      I knew it had somewhat of a history in Morgantown, but I had no idea exactly how much. They've done a lot of moving. I've been around for the Voyagers endeavor, and I'm glad we have the current Ali Baba. I like it better.

      It's impressive he is so dedicated this place. Agree on the excellent dining (and people!)

      You know a little about everything! I was terrified for those people. It was quite stormy, and I didn't want them to fly it. Haha! But I'm sure they had a handle on what they were doing. Small planes scare me. I've never been on a private plane or plane that small, but I did have a fairly small plane from Chicago to Pittsburgh once, and it was terrible. Too much turbulence. =]


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