Local Flavor: Eaty, Meaty, Mighty Mo’s
Jul 21, 2015 03:35AM
● By Kevin
A trip to Mo’s Best Eatery is like stepping into an authentic East Coast diner on some busy side street in the bustling heart of New York City. The space is small, the décor minimal but the food is front and center – and it’s well worth the trip.
Much of the charm of Mo’s Best Eatery in Arlington lies in its founder’s upbringing in Connecticut, just a stone’s throw from the Big Apple. Mo Zaben knows all about East Coast specialties like pizza, pastrami, Philly steak and even Middle Eastern dishes such as baba ghannoush – a nod to his Palestinian heritage – but more importantly, he has the ability to produce them with authenticity.
Zaben first came to North Texas for a family wedding in 2010. He liked what he saw here so much that he decided to move down to stay in 2013. He leased space just off Little Rd. and opened up shop in April of that year.
“I have a lot of experience in the food industry,” says the gregarious 38-year-old Zaben. “I’ve been working in the food business since I was 8 years old.” His family operated produce and fruit stands. He began cooking by age 12, spent time busing tables and then spent the next two-plus decades working in restaurants serving everything from Italian fare to seafood.
Starting It Up
His idea for Mo’s Best Eatery was simple, serve great food done right every time. There’s nothing fancy here but there’s plenty of ambiance to go with the diverse menu. “My place is not about décor, it’s about great food. I invest my money in preparing quality food not fancy décor,” he says. The tiny place boasts only a few small tables and chairs and many customers just order to go.
Originally, he planned to just serve pizza and pastrami but as he looked around the area he thought he could enhance his menu and do things better then the competition. “There was too much bland food around the Arlington area,” he says. So he added salads, fried chicken, burgers, pasta and Middle Eastern offerings. But don’t ask him what he recommends, there’s a chalkboard in the restaurant that reads, “What’s good?” And the written response is classic Zaben, “Everything – If I didn’t think it was good I wouldn’t make it.”
Zaben and his mother ran the shop until he got married last fall. Now his mother splits her time between Texas and Connecticut and Zaben and his wife run the shop together year round. “I do 300 orders a day here and I’m the only cook,” he says.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that Zaben likes to talk. He’s friendly and engaging and there’s a glass wall between the customers and where he prepares most of the food. That’s so he can talk and work at the same time. Everything here is made to order and made right on the spot.
Trying It Out
Two things seem to bring people to Mo’s again and again - the pastrami and the burgers. Burger lovers will savor the blend of meats — New York strip, brisket and two other cuts — that go into these. Zaben grinds in fat and his own special mix of spices and tops the sizzling patty with a dollop of butter for even more flavor. The 7-ounce burgers come served on homemade buns with all the fixins and you can even add one or two more patties if you think you can handle it.
The pastrami is another menu item absolutely worth a visit. Like just about everything else here, Zaben makes it himself. It’s a lengthy process that involves smoking it, steaming it, air-drying it, then cooking it again before drying it one more time. He says the whole process takes about three weeks. By the way, Zaben cooks what he has each day and on popular items like pastrami, he sometimes sells out so get there early if you want to ensure a treat for your taste buds.
On our visit it was a tough decision between one of the four-meat burgers or the three-week-in-preparation pastrami. In the end, the pastrami grinder won out. It was a heaping half-pound helping of some of the tastiest pastrami I’ve ever had (note, you can also get a mammoth 1-pound version). It came on a crispy roll with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard. If you prefer the true East Coast style, you can get it on rye bread. We completed this abundant lunch with some of Zaben’s mom’s homemade baklava. It was melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Of course all of it came with a complimentary serving of conversation with Zaben.Mo’s Best Eatery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., and again from 5:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Sunday’s hours are noon until 3:00 p.m. and again from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. He closes shop on Mondays. It’s located at 4004 Little Road, off West Pleasant Ridge Road. Call 817-561-4522 or visit mosbesteatery.com for more information.
Written by Kerry Pipes