I don't really know what's going on with this space located on University Avenue. In the plaza, on the left side, have been a series of terrible Middle Eastern restaurants. Is it the same family reinventing this place? Is it a few different family members trying their hand at something new? Is it a coincidence?
I don't know, but it's terrible. When I first tried it, it was Albasha, then it was La Baba. And now, it's the Gulf Grocery Mediterranean Food and Juicebox.
I totally went in here with an open mind. I walked in. A couple guys were sitting at a table playing chess right in front of us. To the right were some shelves full of grocery product. In front and to the left were a haphazard buffet and the Juicebox menu.
From what I gather, Juicebox is just the little juicebar inside. I'm guessing the buffet falls under the grocery store title. Anyway. I went up to the front and asked what was in the buffet, since they had lids. The man behind the counter was very nice, but didn't speak the greatest English, so what I got out of the conversation was rice and some sort of meat. To be expected. I told him I'll order a juice first and the buffet.
I ordered their cocktail juice, which looked to be some sort of strawberry and banana combo. Yum. the man behind the counter called to one of the guys sitting down to make the drink. The guy sitting down pointed to a premade drink sitting in a tray with two others. The man behind the counter went over, picked it up and handed it to me.
How long has this been sitting here? Why is it already made? It's just sitting out on the counter. Not being refrigerated or anything. Just no.
My friend ordered the same drink, but since there wasn't another sitting on the tray, they actually went back and made hers. During this process, I felt my appetite for the buffet dwindle. It seemed he forgot about it, too, so I looked at the grocery section while I waited for her nice and fresh juice to be made.
I stumbled upon some cool items, but then I saw something not so cool - some Laughing Cow cheese. Just chillin'. On the rack. Not refrigerated. I mean, this stuff does need to be refrigerated, right? Something just didn't sit well with me about that.
I had taken one sip of my drink, which was actually good. But my brain couldn't overcome my stomach. I was concerned about my drink sitting out. And now this cheese on the shelf.
When they returned from the kitchen with my friend's drink, they had two styrofoam containers they gave to her. We told them we didn't want the buffet, but they shook their heads and said it was on the house. They didn't tell us what it was. But we took it.
Considering the experience thus far, I didn't really want to take a chance on the food at this point. Which is unfortunate because it smelled good. But I think it was chicken and rice? But I don't really want to take the chance. Food poisoning is the worst.
I feel like this a pretty unfortunate set of circumstances. Their food could be great. But some things are lost in translation. It could be some cultural differences. I could be totally ignorant and that type of cheese can just sit on shelves to be sold. The drink could not have been sitting there super long. But, as a customer, I don't know any of this. And when I have other options that appear more safe, I'm gonna go after that.
And I feel bad that they were genuinely trying to be cool and give us some food, and that's super sweet. And I want them to do well. But this just isn't it.
Tips: Make EVERY drink fresh to order. I felt shafted my friend got a fresh drink and I didn't.
Don't have cheese - that I usually see in a refrigerator - sitting out on a shelf. Seems odd.
Don't have your employees just sitting around playing board games. I feel like I'm interrupting something private. Don't feel as welcome.
Invest in some buffet trays that are good quality. They look like an afterthought and make me wonder what the quality of food is like.