A Pedacito Of Moroccan and Mediterranean Cuisine At TajineXpress In Orlando, Florida
Updated: Nov 1
This story is brought to you by FusionFest, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the mission to celebrate the people and the many different cultures that make Central Florida awesome by showcasing talents, sharing stories, driving innovation and building community based on respect and understanding.
The Metro Orlando area consists of Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties and attracts tens of millions of visitors each year, nearly 60 million in 2021, and about 2 million call the area home. One of the many reasons that make Central Florida great is its diversity of people, their culture, and the food they bring with them. The international influence is prevalent all around town and whether you’re visiting or call Central Florida home, you owe it to yourself to get to know the beautiful cultures that make this such a wonderful (and delicious) place to be.
If you’re a local, you know that some of the best restaurants are the hidden gems located in the non-touristy areas, often in unassuming strip malls. A 15-minute drive on 408 East from Downtown Orlando takes you to the Azalea Park neighborhood on Goldenrod Road near the Valencia College East Campus. This is where you’ll find TajineXpress, a small local eatery that visitors are raving about that brings the hospitality, charm, and flavors of the Mediterranean and Morocco to Central Florida!
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The Journey From Morocco To Central Florida
Chafik Alloui, chef and owner of TajineXpress, comes from a family of farmers in a small village of Morocco. Although no one in his family was a professional cook, Chafik’s mother was well-known as the best tajine maker in the town. No special occasion was complete without one of her famous tajines!
What’s a tajine? Well, it’s actually two things: it describes the cookware as well the style of food prepared within it. The former is the traditional tajine (or tagine) pottery which consists of a circular base with low sides and a large cone or dome shaped cover both made of clay. What’s cooked inside is often also called a tajine, which are generally slow cooked savory stews of meats, vegetables, fruits, grains, and spices. Traditionally, tajines are cooked over hot coals and their unique shape helps seal in all of the incredible flavors of its ingredients.
Chafik attended university and culinary school in Morocco where he learned the principles of hospitality management and the culinary arts. The dean of his school helped him get recruited for the International Program at Walt Disney World in 2003 which gave him the opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a chef in the United States. Although half a world away, Chafik settled into the Morocco Pavilion at Epcot pretty easily. “There wasn’t much of a culture shock because Morocco has a thriving tourism industry,” Chafik told me. Working at Restaurant Marrakesh was a lot like working in Morocco as everyone spoke the same language, they were cooking with much of the same ingredients, and used similar cooking techniques.
After about a year of working at Walt Disney World, Chef Chafik Alloui joined the culinary team for several Central Florida restaurants and resorts. Over the years he continued honing his craft at quick service and fine dining restaurants as he worked his way up from cook, to sous chef, and finally to becoming an executive chef at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Florida.
Learn More About TajineXpress In Orlando, Florida
“Ever since I met him,” his wife Maria explained, “he has always wanted to have his own restaurant.” Chafik told me that he wanted to bring his “taste of home” to Central Florida and what a better way to do it than through the traditional tajines that his mother was famous for back in his small village in Morocco.
TajineXpress opening on March 14, 2021 in an unassuming plaza off Goldenrod Road in East Orlando. The concept is a casual quick service restaurant serving up savory, fresh, and authentic Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes. “Moroccan food is not fast food,” Chafik says, “but we strive to provide quick service and healthy options.” Just take a look at the raving reviews that customers are leaving and you’ll know that TajineXpress is delivering on Chafik’s mission!
I asked the couple how they settled on the Azalea Park, Orlando area for their first restaurant. They had an opportunity to build out a brand new space that is next to small but sprawling muslim community, which allows Chafik to cater to its neighbors who grew up eating his traditional cuisine and introduce that “taste of home” to many more.
The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, and the main dining area is adorned with art and decorations that transport you to Morocco. One of the oldest mosques in Central Florida, Masjid Al-Rahman, is located nearby as well as a Halal market and an Islamic clothing store.
Chafik tells me that their goal is to serve his traditional foods to as many cultures as possible. He believes that Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisines are well known in Central Florida, but he wants to continue to elevate it to the next level of quality and service. They also want to teach people about their culture and help them shed any misconceptions they may have.
I for one am a big believer that food is an excellent conduit for engaging into meaningful conversations about cultures. Stop by and learn more about the food and their culture. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as the staff is very friendly and patient for those who aren’t sure where to begin. The food and its pricing are both approachable for everyone.
Visit TajineXpress at 971 N Goldenrod Rd #166, Orlando, FL 32807.
What To Order At TajineXpress
The menu at TajineXpress is authentic and there is something for everyone. All meats and proteins are certified Halal, and there are a variety of non-meat options. There are several traditional tajines to choose from. The succulent lamb tajine is prepared with green peas and artichoke hearts that help cut through the richness of the lamb. The beef with prunes tajine provides a delicious balance between sweet and savory and the lemon chicken tajine is bright with preserved lemons and fresh olives. All tajines are served with traditional Moroccan bread which can be used to grab the meat and sop up the broth; the traditional way to eat.
Click HERE to see their full menu.
If you’re in the mood for something a little less savory, try the chicken, beef kefta, or shrimp kabab plates which come with a fresh moroccan pepper, cucumber, and onion salad. Can’t decide on one protein? Get all three with the kabab trio!
Additionally, there are a variety of authentic sides, soups, sandwiches, and desserts to choose from. Stop by to enjoy a friendly and authentic “taste of home” from Moroccan Chef Chafik Alloui and his team at TajineXpress.
If you’re looking for a real treat, stop by on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday! During these days TajineXpress has a limited offering of four types of traditional couscous. The chicken couscous is served with potatoes, zucchini, carrots, and pumpkin.
The lamb couscous is a slow-cooked savory lamb shank served with steamed semolina pasta, seasonal vegetables, and topped with caramelized onions and raisins; you can also get this without the lamb for a vegetarian option. And lastly, for a unique slightly sweet snack, try the “saycook”, which is chilled couscous and buttermilk. The special couscous menu is only available Friday through Sunday and only in limited quantities; first come, first serve (so go early!).
If you want to eat the traditional way with your party, try the dine-in family style menu. Choose between the lemon chicken, beef with prunes, or curry goat tajines for two or four persons. All family style meals are served with Moroccan bread and choice of side.
If you’re a local or staying nearby, you can also order delivery through Uber, DoorDash, and Grubhub. You can also order pickup by calling TajineXpress at 407-233-4179.
What’s Next For TajineXpress
Chef Chafik Alloui always dreamed of owning his own restaurant in the United States and lucky for us he achieved this in Central Florida! So what’s next for Chafik? Well, he and his wife Maria hope to continue delivering on their mission to bring the “taste of home” to as many cultures as possible by franchising the TajineXpress concept.
You can follow TajineXpress on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date on their delicious menu offerings. Visit their website to see the full list of Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes along with pictures to help you decide what to eat. When you visit, make sure to let them know you read their story on Pedacitos Travel & Culture Blog. Happy eating!