Ali Baba of the West Side, the casual, Middle Eastern kosher eatery at 515 Amsterdam Avenue (corner of 85th Street), has shut its doors after losing its lease. This was recently announced on Facebook group Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies.
Most popular for its shawarma and falafel, Ali Baba was a small space which also served hearty soups, Middle Eastern salads, vegetarian platters, kebabs and more.
Ali Baba was opened by Rabbi Moshe Harizy after he lost his stationery store to Staples in the mid 1990s, according to a 2015 feature in The Observer. Harizy is a fifth-generation Yemenite Israeli who was raised in Tel Aviv.
In addition to serving New Yorkers food from his UWS outpost for so many years, he used it as a setting for his match-making services. Reported The Observer, “He helps them right here, right at this very table—a long wooden table that seats about eight—the only table in the tiny restaurant. In between preparing and serving truly outstanding Yemenite-Israeli cuisine—with lafah he bakes himself every morning—he is matchmaker, dating coach and spiritual teacher.”
Featured images c/o Google Street View
Very sad. The food there was great.
Only a matter of time before this space gets added to the Pickle Hospitality lineup, I’d venture.
Not a chain, not expensive or too loud, Ali Baba, tiny and welcoming, was one of those places you could see portrayed in a sitcom like Cheers. Maybe a kosher Cheers. Open to the sidewalk it beckoned you to step into it and shmooze with the Rabbi, grab something to eat and sit. These are the places that made our neighborhood special and one by one they are vanishing. This one makes me sad.