Arpeggio Grill (and the Tomato Shack hidden within the restaurant), albeit common and cheap Middle Eastern cuisine, also serves up classic American dishes such as pizza and hamburgers, according to halal standards. However, the restaurant still has a couple of kinks to work out when it comes to their atmosphere and plating.
Halal literally translates to “legal,” and when applied to dietary laws, it basically means your meat has been slaughtered according to Islamic law. It has not come in contact with “haram,” or forbidden foods like pork, and the animal was killed by a quick incision to the neck with a sharp knife.
Walking in the restaurant, you’re immediately hit by a wave of heat that makes you feel like you are in the Arabian peninsula. The restaurant’s poor air conditioning doesn’t provide much relief from Texas’ or the kitchen’s heat.
If you can get past its temperature issues, the restaurant’s decor is quite spacious and appealing. Not much is left over from the previous restaurant’s — TerraBurger — decor other than their trash cans; Arpeggio has made full use of their space by packing in as many tables as they can. They’ve even repainted the inside a warm Mediterranean orange and added a wall mural of the countryside.
After grabbing your drink — the ahmed hot green tea is brewed perfectly without that burnt grass flavor that improper steeping can leave — your food is served on a Styrofoam plate. Though Styrofoam cups and plates are not an uncommon thing in restaurants, the drastic change from TerraBurger’s eco-friendly attitude comes as a bit of a shock. The change of attitude is even further compounded when you see the entire restaurant tossing away the nondecomposable material.
The food itself, though, is decent and cheap. For $5, you can walk out of the restaurant with a very filling sandwich. The falafels weren’t too dry and gritty and the meats were all savory and moist. The tzatziki sauce had that semi-thick creamy consistency with a cool dill-flavored finish, though the overly peanut-buttery tasting hummus isn’t anything to write home about. The pita for the sandwiches is also great. Although the thin dipping pita dries out rather quickly because it’s not wrapped in any tin foil, the pitas for the sandwiches are fluffy, soft and warm.
Additionally, customers can choose more familiar foods such as pizza and hamburgers from the Tomato Shack — a mini-restaurant inside Arpeggio that is accessed from the walk-up, outdoor window. The double restaurant aspect was another shock at first, but its attempt is understandable. The addition to Arpeggio retains TerraBurger’s fast-food aspect and ability to use the to-go window. Still, the restaurant might be better off just dropping the unnecessary Tomato Shack and adding its options to Arpeggio’s menu.
The most that can be said is that this is classic Middle Eastern foods done right. The flavors aren’t necessarily complex, but the food is satisfying, especially for such cheap prices.
Nevertheless, one of the best things to come out of this restaurant is all of their halal food. Take a look on the Drag and you’ll notice a dearth of halal-friendly restaurants, leaving practicing students at a loss. However, the variety of dishes available offers a slight reprieve for students who have to buy and cook most of their food or drive off campus if they want to keep halal.