Grilled to perfection
Grills & Greens
Grills & Greens3040 Sunrise Blvd.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
It’s not often I find a reason to visit Rancho Cordova, but Grills & Greens—a Persian fast-food eatery serving up impressively flavorful gyro meats and too-good-to-be-true falafels in delicious pita sandwiches—has me taking the Sunrise Boulevard exit whenever I can.
Let’s start with these crazy-good falafels. It’s so easy to come up with something too mushy, or overly grainy, or—the worst scenario—too bland. The falafels at G&G are the perfect size: small enough to maintain crunch, but big enough to give texture and room for the nutty chickpea to shine. But these falafels feature other ingredients such as leeks, maybe bell pepper, plus a mystery ingredient—one owner Syamek Shabani calls a “sacred family recipe.”
To me, the mysterious ingredient is slightly bitter, an addition that quickly grew on me as I ate the Falafel Sandwich ($6.49) with tahini sauce in one sitting. Falafels can be ordered in a sandwich (all sandwiches contain spinach, tomato, Persian pickles, pepperoncini, parsley and onion, stuffed in a panini-grilled pita), as part of a rice plate ($9.99) with basmati rice and spinach sprinkled with grated Parm, or as part of the Hummus Plate ($7.99).
As good as the falafels are, the meats are where G&G really leaves its mark. Beef and chicken are roasted all day on a vertical rotisserie, sliced down and marinated in herbs and juices and grilled right in front of the customer. The flavors of the beef and chicken are strikingly good—the kind of good where everyone at the table is smiling in food euphoria. It’s somewhat peppery and slightly tangy. It’s like G&G took the distinctness of meat and made it twice as meaty. The chicken ($6.99) and beef ($7.99) sandwiches taste incredible with all the accompanying ingredients. The tang of pickle perfectly compliments the sweet-spice of pepperoncini and onion; tomatoes full of watery ripeness enunciate one of four different sauces, in my case a sweet ranch-like roasted red bell pepper. All this punch mixes delightfully within the spongy, almost English muffin-like pita bread.
The sandwiches are the best reason to visit G&G. It also offers a deep-fried Eggplant Sandwich ($6.49) for anyone who luxuriates in the power of bitter, and a Feta & Walnut Sandwich ($6.49) with cucumber, olive oil and thyme, which initially makes no sense as a sandwich, until you taste it. Its brittle, salty, snack-mix-salad vibe wins you over after the first bite.
Things do fall a little short when ordering the rice plates. The rice is dry, and there’s just too much “salad” aka spinach; both seem unnecessary once you taste the delectable beef or chicken. G&G maintains the fast-food feel via eco-friendly to-go containers, but it also defies the stereotype with fresh, daily made food, cooked to order. It enforces a strict, no substitutes, no special requests policy. But this doesn’t seem to deter most customers, who were abundant every time I visited.
Shabani also pinpoints new customers and lets them try the sauces and sometimes the meats or falafels before they order. He’s friendly and knows how to turn first-timers into loyal patrons. I just hope he’s willing to give his secrets away when the time comes, or else the sacred secret of fantastically cooked meats will be lost forever.