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If you’ve been to Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, or Carroll Gardens and kept your eyes open while you were there, you’ve noticed that empty yellow cabs are always cruising up Clinton Street on their way back to Manhattan. What you might not have noticed is that they often make pit stops for a quick bite before crossing the bridge. Quite a few of my cabbie colleagues are Middle Easterners, and they each have their own personal favorite amongst the cluster of cheap, authentic, and delicious Middle Eastern restaurants along Atlantic Avenue. Having tried a number of their recommendations over the years, I’ve chosen my own favorite: Waterfalls Café.

20june2006waterfalls2.jpgIt wasfirst recommended to me by Ali, an Egyptian vegetarian cabbie at my old garage on Bergen Street. Indeed, Waterfalls boasts a particularly strong vegetarian following for its variety of tasty meatless menu options. Along with typical Middle Eastern vegetarian dishes like falafel with babaghanouj, hummos, and tabouleh, Waterfalls offers more exotic selections like cabbage stuffed with cracked wheat, chick peas, mint, and salad. Ali was a big fan of the $3.50 fried cauliflower pita sandwich and the emjaddara (rice with lentils, fried onion, and yogurt salad). I am a fan of their olives and pickled radishes.

So whenever I find myself cruising past Atlantic Avenue, I stop at Waterfalls. Although I do go the vegetarian route quite often thanks to Ali’s sage advice, the grilled meats fill the small restaurant with a heavenly scent, so I cannot resist. I always go in intending to leave without the blood of an innocent animal on my hands, but when that smell travels up my nose, my mind always seems to change, and I walk out with half a lamb under my arm.

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Last week I stopped to visit a friend who lives on Love Lane in Brooklyn Heights, and I brought along some chicken kebob and kafta (ground beef from the neck or leg) kebob from Waterfalls. My vegetarian friend, who had just eaten three tofutti cuties or I would have brought her a cauliflower sandwich, caught a whiff of that meat and seriously considered changing her lifestyle. I don’t know how Ali has the will power.

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Waterfalls Cafe, 144 Atlantic btwn Clinton and Henry, Brooklyn, 718-488-8886