March 23, 2014 Achrafieh Beirut Lebanon Middle East

Hajj Nasr Sandwiches... Doesn't Seem to be Closing Down Anytime Soon

CHECK OTHER REVIEWS FOR THIS PLACE:
Hajj Nasr: A Must Experience Before It Closes Down

Many of you may know Hajj Nasr, one of the smallest sandwhicherias in Lebanon. You must have come across it, even if you haven’t actually tried it. Nestled in the heart of Achrafieh’s busy streets, Hajj Nasr, known for his abrupt character, welcomes people who wait in line for their turn to grab whatever is left in the kitchen to make. The last time I came here was in August, and the news back then was that the place was closing down. We are half way through the next year and I was happy to see that the little sandwich spot was still open... A character worth meeting indeed...

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Facing AiZone at ABC Achrafieh’s Mall, Hajj Nasr, the famous Hajj Nasr has been rolling meat and poultry sandwiches since 1975 in this small shop. At the very end is a counter where Mr. Hajj Nasr makes his famous sandwiches at the speed of light, starting at four in the morning onwards until nothing is left to be sold.

It was 11:30am when I arrived to this tiny place, where dozens of accustomed customers were already waiting in line, just craving for a sandwich. Anything that is available is fine as long as Hajj Nasr makes it: Meat, chicken, eggs, liver, brains... And it wasn't lunchtime yet. I was amazed. Grabbing my phone, Hajj Nasr, looked at the many people packed inside his shop and said out loud, "I feel like an animal behind bars in the zoo, posing in front of people taking pictures of me." And he continued rolling his sandwiches while everyone turned to look at me as they were pushing me away with their eyes. I was waisting his time, and they were hungry.

Approaching the counter, and trying to take even more photos, he slowed down, looked at me and said: "Don't tell me that you are the NoGarlicNoOnions guy! No! Please no! Hundreds have been coming here after you wrote your article and now that they forgot about me, you are reminding them of my existence? I beg you to leave." In a funny sarcastic way, Hajj Nasr makes everyone smile. He is known for his way of talking, not scared of anything or anyone. Feeding the hungry is his main concern, and life turns around that. I tried to avoid him asking me what I wanted to eat while I meticulously recorded in my head his funny expressions; "Dawle baddik kafta?" Dawle (government), looking at two policemen. Two policemen were here to simply eat while he expressed out loud all his feelings about the country and its politics. And he continued saying: "Kele ya dawdle, kele, sorte tekemche siyarat mfakhakhe, halla2?" (I heard you're capturing explosive cars nowadays? lol)

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This man throws jokes without even smiling or showing his teeth. Funny moments can be spent in here while he shouts and rolls one sandwich after the other at the speed of light. "Chou, wayna el madame? Akalet wou fallet?". "Nchallah" is used every now and then. Nchallah means yes and no or anything that can close a long sentence. Prepare to hear it a lot.

Now came my turn: "Chou ba3tik, tatfell?". He eagerly wanted me to leave... he hates photos. Asking innocently what was left on the menu, he changed his tone and said: "What is this question? Do you want one sandwich of everything? You think you can taste all? Just ask and I'll give you." Knowing that some items are usually never available, I asked him for one Kebbe. "We don't have kebbe, I'll give you a kafta sandwich like everybody else".

The best part was yet to come: Ordering a Diet Pepsi. He takes two normal Pepsi from the fridge and puts them on the counter, waiting for me to pick them up saying, these are diet. "Diet, I ask?" "Yes, my friend these are diet, a special edition made just for us. They were out of diet cans, so they gave us regular instead. A blue can but a diet filling. It's the same taste, drink them". Watch the video and see for yourself... Too funny. 

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A customer, who was waiting ten minutes for his sandwich asked if the one being rolled was his. Continuing to roll and without even looking at him, he replied: "This sandwich is not good, I didn't like it, I'll give you another one. Ba3tik yalle ba3do, hayda mech 3ejebne."

The shop has nothing extraordinary to highlight. The walls are covered in stainless steel, promotional stickers fill the doors and at the end the famous counter, to the right, is the list of sandwiches:
  • Chicken liver, lamb liver, Thal, Sanasel, Eggs and makanek, Eggs and soujok, Eggs and ham, Eggs and cream, Roast beef, chicken, stuffed vine leaves, soujok, makanek, kafta, basterma, tongue, labneh, chocolate… and more
Good to know:
  • You might say that the place is dirty: They serve fresh street food prepared by one man, in a single spot. Believe me, it's cleaner than many hidden kitchens in fine restaurants around the city
  • Everything is rolled in Lebanese bread
  • The choices are many in the morning and declines as the day ends
  • Kafta is the best seller and a must try. Don't miss the eggs with cream and the chocolate with banana and cream for dessert
  • Please leave your manners at home and go have fun. Visit Hajj Nasr for its simplicity and authenticity. Sandwiches of love, passion and dedication
  • Expect to be shouted with oil: All sandwiches are extremely oily. Better keep a wet wipes underhand
I ordered:
  • Roast-beef sandwich: A simple sandwich. Roast beef slices, tomatoes, pickles and mustard. Simple and tasty.
  • Soujok: Soujok is unique around here. A spread of soujok covered with pickles, tomatoes, and garlic paste with an overdose of spices that will burn your lips. A must try
  • Kafta: The kafta is produced in a special way. A large container of kafta is always kept handy where Hanna grabs a chunk to spread it in the double layer of bread. It then enters a toaster, as is, to be cooked and toasted. Few minutes later, mayonnaise, tomato and pickles are added before rolling the sandwich and delivering it to the customer. This sandwich’s taste is unique reflecting what real street food it is. But for me it’s too fatty, too oily and too spicy...
  • Chicken liver: Inside soft and tender bread, chicken liver is combined with some tomatoes, pickles and coupled with a spread of garlic flavored mayonnaise. Moist and tender, this sandwich is devoured in few bites while craving for more
  • Chocolate, banana, and cream: If you think that you're done, the chocolate sandwich will open your appetite again for a new round of sandwiches. Chocolate spread, whipped cream and soft bananas wrapped in Lebanese bread. Again, its the simplicity will make you fall in love with what you eat.
The sandwiches are extraordinary and unique is every sense: Yes they are fatty, oily, too spicy and unevenly wrapped, but it’s the simplicity and love felt in every bite is worth trying for only 3,000L.L/piece. Don’t expect super cleanliness, this place is a mess, and honestly nobody cares. Hundreds of thousands of people have eaten and enjoyed this place for decades. Politicians, bankers, taxi drivers, army officers... In here, all are equal. I'll come again for sure.
 
 
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While waiting, I enjoyed listening to Hanna – if this is his name- welcoming his guests with a unique vocabulary:
  • Isteze, keef fine se3dak?
  • Bi2amrak Ana!
  • Hadde m3allemna!
  • 3tine 5000L.L
  • Kafta men 3aineyye
  • Be3tezer 3a te2khir m3alme
  • Thank you m3alme
  • Merci beaucoup
  • Khod hay sandwiche 3tiya la yalle warak
  • Alla yred 3anne, menkon
One customer came back an hour after for more sandwiches. Not too happy to see him again he asked:"Dakhlak ma akalet 3aboukra enta? Khlosna, sandwich wa7ad bi 2addik.” Yes, the policy is one sandwich per person. Don't dream of eating two kafta for example, others have the right to eat as well.
To answer the main and most important question, Hajj Nasr is not closing down anymore, not for now at least. The project of demolishing the building has stopped, so Hajj decided to stay here longer. 33 years in the making and maybe an additional 10, this man is full of energy and dedication. Lebanon's history can be written in this small eatery.
 
I enjoyed my second visit and am sure that you'll do so as well. I would love to hear your experiences.
 
Categories: Street Food Sandwiches



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been there? what was your impression? (9/10)

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happy
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good
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euhh
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meh!
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nah!
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never again