So, what are you doing for Potluck this week?" my friend asks.
"There's a new Greek place, over on Kiowa, kind of by the Underground. The Mediterranean Café," I reply.
She gasps and her face lights up. "Like the one at the [Citadel] mall? You mean I don't have to go out to the mall anymore? That place rocks, but I hate having to go to the mall."
As word has spread about the new downtown branch of the Mediterranean Café, jubilation has ensued. And rightly so. The beauties of the Mediterranean Café are abundant.
The service is quick, since it's an order-at-the-counter kind of place, no matter whether you're dining in or taking out. It's cheap; lunch will not disrupt your cash flow (or lack thereof). And now with its new location, there's one less reason to have to go to the mall. The cuisine of the sun has come west to join the diverse downtown food scene.
The menu covers all of the basic Mediterranean food groups -- Gyros, kabobs, falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves and the almighty baklava. There's even bulk Kalamata olives and a marinated mixed-olive salad available. And the food is tasty as all get-out.
Leading the way in the tasty department is the gyro, a pita stuffed full of seasoned lamb, shredded lettuce, Feta cheese, tomatoes, onions, garlic sauce and tzatziki (a cucumber yogurt sauce). It's as flavorful and satisfying as it is drippy and messy to eat (sure puts those Carl Jr. drippy burger ads to shame). Ditto for the chicken gyro, which offers, in place of the lamb, chicken breast chunks that have been marinating in lemon and garlic. Greek food heaven for only $4.25.
Sandwiches range in price from $3.75 to $4.25, and there's a lunchtime special for $6.25 that includes any of the sandwiches (falafel, gyro, etc.), a fountain beverage, your choice of soup or salad ... and curly fries.
The curly fries seem out of place, but what do I know? The Mediterranean Café certainly isn't alone in this department; every Greek or Mediterranean place I've ever been offers some sort of french fry. And the curlies are pretty tasty; they just make odd partners with the falafel. I recommend substituting them for side of hummus when you can.
Speaking of hummus ... of all the Greek salads, this spiced-up garbanzo bean dip is the finest. Its inventor was a food genius. I only wish that the hummus at the Mediterranean Caf could be available as a salad choice for more of the dishes, particularly the kabobs. A side of hummus, however, is available for a mere $1.89, and a side of it with pita bread will run you $2.49 (which, incidentally, makes a fine afternoon snack).
While nobody was looking, The Mediterranean Café quietly snuck into its new downtown digs, a space that's been host to a bevy of different restaurants over the past several years, none of which had enough tenacity to survive in the burgeoning downtown food arena. After cutting its teeth at the mall food court, though, the Mediterranean Café has the know-how. All they need now is a bigger sign to help guide the masses.
-- Suzanne Becker