Fill Me Up

dining aJsmarketThe owners of the Chevron gas station on the corner of Park Avenue and Soquel Drive have taken the notion of a quick stop to the next echelon.

A recent remodel added a car wash and a delightful Victorian-inspired building which houses AJ’s Market and Natural Foods.

I was drawn in by a sign offering falafels and gyros, two of my favorite sandwiches. I was pleasantly surprised when the doors opened to reveal a bright display of fruit and vegetables. Wandering down the first aisle I noted sacks of Middle Eastern basmati rice, and wondered, “Might there be some old world spices as well?”

It is a fully stocked market with a coffee bar, and I found a host of ingredients for Middle Eastern and Indian recipes in the spice aisle. I victoriously grasped a box of fenugreek leaves, saving me a trip over the hill.

There is also a meat counter with Halal choices, and a deli which serves up sandwiches, salads, breakfast burritos, and burgers.

The Falafel Wrap ($5.95), plump and wrapped in a sturdy flour tortilla, included romaine, tomato, and cucumber in addition to cumin-scented falafel balls, yogurt sauce and a very spicy hot sauce, which is optional. It was also filling and happily healthy. The Gyro Wrap ($5.95) was similarly assembled, but contained traditionally spiced and cooked meat cut in thin slices from a rotating spindle.

Chicken Shawarma is served as a wrap or plate ($7.95). The latter is a salad of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers with a generous amount of tasty herbed chicken thigh, all drizzled with yogurt. I barely made a dent in the large plate.

More traditional sandwiches include Pesto Chicken ($5.95). A large sesame-seeded hamburger bun was spread with tasty basil pesto and then filled with thinly sliced chicken breast, lettuce, red onion, and tomato. | KP

AJ’s Market and Natural Foods, 5955 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 462-2066. Beer and wine.

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