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    Eat & Swig

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    Photos by Casey Chalmers

    Inhale, tilt back, lips to the heavens and poof! White smoke curls and broods like the summer storm outside, temporarily putting a young man’s head in a cotton-candy-scented cloud. It is a hookah party of one at this lunch hour, hookah hose in left hand, iPhone in the right. Other than that, the restaurant is empty. The young man tells me that to order food I must go to the kitchen, a room that smells like a forest fire.

    A Jordanian opened Pasha’s about a year ago on the no-nonsense stretch of Bardstown Road that barrels through Buechel with boxy storefronts and a fun habit of sneaking in some of the city’s best international cuisine. He’s not at the restaurant today, only an older man with gray bristle and a gray apron who walks up to the counter that separates kitchen from customer and takes my order — hummus, falafel, ful medammas (a fava bean dip) and the shesh taouk plate (basically a chicken kabob). I crave a vegetable kabob but no luck. Sometimes one must settle for side salad.

    I take a seat in a high-ceilinged room with rugs on the wall and a shelf of "healthy hooka" pipes. Overhead, what look like paper lanterns in the shape of Christmas lights hang. Behind me a television is tuned to basketball, electrical wires like vines in the Amazon connect the TV and window air-conditioning units to outlets. I talk with the young hookah man, who tells me the under-21 crowd packs in on Friday and Saturday nights, a rainbow of cultures — Arabs, Syrians, Turks, Cubans, Americans — all here to enjoy a hookah and hummus.

    Speaking of hummus, mine arrives. It’s as smooth as pudding and surprisingly tart, among the best I’ve ever had. Six falafels arranged in a circle on a petite plate dressed with a cocktail napkin show up next. They’re small, nearly the exact size of Tootsie Pops, but otherwise flawless. The exterior crunches as convincingly as corn flakes, and the spiced insides are not at all dry, a common falafel fail. A spicy rub makes an otherwise standard kabob memorable.

    As I finish lunch, two other tables fill. One young couple occupies their pre-meal minutes with a string of cheek-to-cheek selfies — pout, smile, concern, surprise! What looks to be an elderly woman and her daughter walk in and, for a brief moment, seem disoriented. Where do we order? Do we seat ourselves? It can be a bit unnerving to try a place with only a handful of Yelp reviews as a road map. But earlier when I stepped into Pasha’s, my gut said proceed. It now leaves quite pleased.


    This originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

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