Longtime readers of the blog know that I don’t often head to the suburbs. I’m a city girl, and though I don’t insist on staying close to home, I focus on the urban core. So when a friend asked me to meet her for lunch in Anderson, I actually jumped on the chance– broaden my horizons for once. We met at the new Anderson Town Center, and initially wanted to go to Latitudes, which is a martini bar and cafe (and home of some ladies’ nights for Cincy Chic), but they weren’t open until 2 PM. Second choice? Cafe Mediterranean, which is nearby.
Now, going with my friend to Cafe Mediterranean is a big deal. She’s Syrian, and lived in Syria for some formative years of her life. She knows middle eastern and Mediterranean food. She’d been there before and insisted it was good. I was sold.
The restaurant itself is dark wood– fairly elegant, considering the mediterranean restaurants I’m used to going to (which tend to be on college campuses). The waitstaff is in white shirts, ties, and long white aprons– it feels like fine dining. In the back, there is a party room with traditional low benches, pillows and (I hear) hookahs on request.
We started off with drinks– Manhattans all around– as we perused the menu. We decided on bourek as an appetizer, which is cheese wrapped in phyllo dough and fried– a childhood favorite of my friend. She said they tasted just like they did in Syria, and calls them the middle east’s answer to cheese stick. I’d rather eat these over American mozzarella sticks anyday– the outside was crisp, and the inside salty and cheesy and delicious.
After seeing someone at the bar order a Greek salad with some great looking grilled chicken, and my friend insisting we had to have lamb, we decided to split two entrees: the Greek salad and the lamb shish kebab. We wanted to try their bulghur wheat, but they were out of it, so we chose the rice pilaf as a side.
The Greek salad was a meal in itself– we couldn’t eat it all. Not only was there chicken, but there were pepperocini, fava beans, big chunks of briny feta, olives, tomatoes, a really nice red wine vinaigrette and it was topped with a dolma (stuffed grape leaf). The dolma made me wish I had gotten those as an entree– they were chilled, stuffed with meat and rice, a little sweet, and almost decadent-tasting. I’ve never had a dolma quite like it. The chicken was well seasoned and juicy, and the whole salad a great meal. And the kicker? Only $8.
The lamb shish kebab was also nicely seasoned and juicy, if a bit more done than I’d like (I tend to like most red meat rare), but not overdone. The rice pilaf was also nice, just a little buttery and garlicky. It was accompanied by grilled tomatoes and peppers.
The house brought us out some chai, which we drank with a dessert of custard. It was a cinnamony, cardamom-y version of the egg custard my boyfriend makes (which is a real favorite of mine), so this was almost a comfort food to me. It is essentially a baked pudding, rich in vanilla and egg. We didn’t finish it– trying to be good, you know– and talked for a really long time without the slightest hint of being rushed.
The owner, who also served us, said that they’d be doing a happy hour with martini specials starting in February– so stop in with some girlfriends (or a date!) and grab some appetizers and martinis. You won’t find better Mediterranean in town (and they make a mean Manhattan!).