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Al-Omda (“the mayor” in Egyptian Arabic) is a gem of a place, a tiny spot that just debuted an outside hookah area already patronized by Arab-Americans of various nationalities and religions, all united under the promise of food almost impossible to find in Southern California. An order of tahmaya is the usual starter—what we’d call falafels but now made with fava beans and onions, topped with sesame seeds, and served alongside tahini. It’s the tart sophisticate to falafel’s earthy country cousin, and while most tables get an order, you can also eat them inside a pita as a sandwich. But a much better sandwich choice is the hawawash, a fried flatbread stuffed with ground beef, peppers, and even more onions (what’s with the Egyptian love affair with onions?). Although the presentation is a bit floppier than I’d like, the combo of grease, spice, and the sweetened meat inside will make you forget shawerma sandwiches ever existed (although they’re here as well, and very good). Bring a bigger crowd, and order the roasted duck, rabbit, or pigeon stuffed with rice, all served family style and with a sauce prepared from the bitter molokhaya leaf.