I have to agree with other comments. I walked into Ya Hala because I respect Westword and banner said it was Westword�s best. The first thing I noticed was the smell in the place then the general lack of hospitality. I was really surprised, when I was drove by the place and they had a best of 2008 sign up. It is unfair to restaurants that actually provide excellent food and exceptional service to not be recognized and not get the traffic that is really life line of business. It also damages Westword�s credibility. Best Middle Eastern food in Denver area is Ali Baba Grill. I mainly read the comments to see what other people thought should have gotten this recognition.
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant - 2008
Ya Hala Grill
Ya hala means "Welcome" but the atmosphere,food and service say anything but. Another in a long line of horrible "middle eastern" restaurants. I've lived in and/or visited 10 middle eastern countries and not ONE, not ONE of the many eateries here in Denver even approaches respectable. I just met a man this week who has been searching in vain for the last five years for proper shawarma. To quote him "anything remotely like true shawarma would be ok at this point" And as for hummus...remember it's not made of tahini. It's made of garbanzo beans/chickpeas and tahini is added to smooth it out. If you can readily taste the tahini over the other ingredients and not the fresh beans, tangy lemon and hint of garlic, it's not right, period. Then there's falafel. In Denver...forget it. Baklava...ha! Any restaurant from Greece to Arabia would be picketed if they tried to serve up what we have here. Alas, I'm not looking for some magical replica but a modicum of authenticity and someone who really cares about the food would be nice. The best middle eastern restaurant we had that was decent was Turkish, Istanbul Grill-lived in Turkey too folks. But sadly it closed. When I ran into the owners at a market they lamented the lack of business. It seems most folks haven't a clue about decent middle eastern cuisine and unfortunately the middle eastern community in Denver just isn't big enough to support quality eateries without help from us americanos. Anyway, maybe middle eastern food just doesn't translate into restaurant fair. The best food I ever had was at home and typically middle eastern people around town don't eat it out:maybe coz most of it sucks or they'd rather eat at home. Though how we can continually mess up the easiest dishes of falafel and hummous(non existant in Turkey) and shawarma-doner in Turkey (which are almost always street food) is just as much a mystery to the Denver cooking scene as US policy in the Middle East continues to be for the politicos. At least in DC you can get your shawarma fix. Oh, and House of Kabooooob as old-hand middle easternaphiles in Denver call it WAS good years ago when the original Iranian owners ran it. Since then it's degraded almost to the level of the others. Maybe Shiraz is ok down on Arapahoe road-went there once but since I've also lived in La Jolla and Tehrangeles, California I'm tainted for Persian food too. Wonder if there are any mid-winter air fare deals to Cali, Chicago, Houston or DC. Then again the cheapest tickets now are probably to the actual Middle East these days-rocket fire and bombs with your fattoush anyone?
After driving by Ya Hala on a daily basis and reading the "Best of" endorsement on the marquee, we finally stopped in tonight. Although the food was good (but there are a lot of good Middle Eastern restaurants along this stretch of Co Blvd) we were sadly disappointed. The horrible service we received overshadowed anything positive about the food. Unfortunately, I don't believe we were the only people in the place that were having this experience. Not sure that I could chalk this experience up to "just a bad night" because the enthusiasm and energy in the place was completely absent. I hate to say it, but Ya Hala would not be a recommendation of mine.
True, the hummus is excellent (though Jerusalem's is better). And the lentil soup is fabulous. But, the entrees are good not great, the place reeks and so do I when I leave. I did not reek when I got there.But worst of all, the service is the worst I have ever had anywhere. Three tables with people at them, no orders coming out and the waitron doesn't speak to us for over 10 minutes. I'm not in a hurry, but I want a drink and I want to get an order in so that I can leave before tomorrow. And the time between courses is, well, forever. After three trips to Ya Hala to find out what the fuss is all about, I'm done.Best Middle Eastern Restaurant? You've GOT to be kidding.
I agree with Mary, and for my money, House of Kabob is the best game in town. Besides much better decor and ambiance, the food is far superior. Plus, Friday and Saturday nights, there is belly-dancing for your entertainment.
You have got to be kidding! The food is so average and chancey when you order. Not everything on the menu is available and the service is painfully slow. There are at least 10 other Middle Eastern restaurants in Denver so much more worthy of this title.
Couldn't agree more with the review. Ya Hala is hands down one of our favorite places in Denver to dine at. The decor is laughable. The service can be slow sometimes, but the food is devine.Hummus, soup, shawarma and kebabs are the normal things that grace our table.Yum!