The Jordanian family that owns and runs this restaurant prides itself on bringing its homeland dining culture to the 'Cuse. The Essi family says its recipes, which originated in Lebanon, make up "the best diet in the world." Meals here are made up mostly of beans, grains, vegetables and lots of herbs and spices, which the family says hold medicinal powers. The 90 percent vegan menu features authentic Mediterranean cuisine, with a distinctive Middle Eastern flair that's sure to draw even a meat lover back for another meal.
When to Go: The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. and is closed Sundays. The medium-sized cafe will likely have a peaceful atmosphere and open seating indoors or out — whether you prefer an early or late dining experience. The bottom line: A speedy lunch or dinner meal is always a sure bet at this place.
On Tap: The food may be Mediterranean, but that doesn't mean this family will deprive its American customers of their favorite beers and wines. Pair your dish with a smooth Labatt, Blue Moon, Corona, Heineken or Amstel. Or sip on a glass of Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet or Chardonnay. American soft drinks are also available. The bottom line: Whether you like beer, wine or soda, they've got you covered.
Blue Plate Special: Some of the most popular dishes include the lamb gyro or the chawirma — an Arab specialty made up of roast beef slices, fresh tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices on a bed of hummus. It comes served with pita bread and a tasty falafel — that's chickpeas and spices ground and fried into a patty. There's only one dessert option, but it's a tasty one — and it's cheap! The burma — another recipe straight from the Middle East — consists of nuts sweetened in honey and wrapped in sweet crunchy pastry fibers. The best part? It's only $1 per pastry! The bottom line: There are a variety of salads, sandwiches and wraps, but a gyro or chawirma is sure to give you an authentic taste of the Mediterranean. Don't forget dessert.
The Scene: You'll walk in to the sound of Middle Eastern music lightly playing, paintings of camels and Arab cities, Arabian swords hung on the wall and a large mural of Middle Eastern dancers covering another wall. It's a pleasant uncrowded atmosphere. The bottom line: Not just your mouth, but your eyes and ears will also feel like they're in Jordan or Lebanon.
The Crew: The owners and staff here are one big Jordanian family, and they're sure to greet you and make you feel at home. They're a friendly down-to-earth crew who cares about every detail of their cafe. As I ate my meal, I overheard a couple of family members who were deep in debate over whether the chairs at the cafe were the right height, and whether or not those chairs should swivel. The bottom line: This family cares about its customers' dining experience; you're sure to feel welcome!
The Crowd: Guests of all ages, including children, enjoy stopping by for lunch. College students are sure to enjoy the unique ethnic experience this cafe brings to the table. The bottom line: No matter who you are, this is a unique cultural dining experience you'll probably enjoy.
The Deets: In addition to a wide variety of original Lebanese entrees and appetizers, you can choose from a list of Mediterranean wraps, sandwiches and salads. Each dish is filled with about four different items, which adds up to be a lot of bang for your buck. Menu items range from just $1 up to $14. The bottom line: Big Mediterranean yum + little American dollar = the ideal meal.
Profile by Ivory Hecker