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Mediterranean misnomer

More of a casual cafe, Mediterranean Bakery's a charmer


The photograph said it all. On page 27 of the December Tucker Times, a snapshot of a smiling man whittling slices of chicken off a vertical roaster completely entranced me. My mind reeled at descriptions of Eastern Mediterranean "ethnic pastries" and "fresh-baked, natural pita-style bread." What really got me, though, was a photograph of a rotisserie practically buckling from a mass of seasoned meat. This was no typical Shawarma Hut cone of processed, foodservice meat that has less to do with beef and more to do with Spam. This meat on the spit was jagged, uneven, obviously stacked by hand. Mediterranean Bakery was clearly givin' up the real goods.

Happy hookah: My hopes that Mediterranean Bakery would be chock-a-block with homemade pastries of syrup-dripping phyllo and rack after rack of freshly baked flatbreads were dashed when we arrived. The pitas and naan served at the newly opened cafe are imported and the pastries are purchased from a commercial bakery. But all disappointment was assuaged when we spied the magical roaster's twin spits a-whirling with beef and chicken shawarma. A quick stroll while waiting for our lunch plates revealed a delightful inventory of items such as vegetable and dairy ghee, fig preserves, rose water, concentrated pomegranate juice and, best of all, hookahs at the extraordinary low price of $30.50.

Ooh, make it burn: Lunch items such as falafel, kafta and shawarma are available as sandwiches or plates, and both options are as satisfying as they are refreshingly affordable, ranging from $3.50 to $4.99 for sandwiches and $4.99 to $6.99 for plates. The plates are fabulous mosaics of tastes, served with two side items of choice that provide an extra measure of zip and contrast. I chose the chicken shawarma plate ($6.99) with tabbouli and fattoush, a sparklingly bright salad of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and green pepper dressed with lemon juice. Slices of succulent chicken breast ribboned with strips of crispy skin were served with toasted pita. A side of addictive yogurt-based sauce was so garlicky my tastebuds began to sweat.

My friend's beef shawarma plate ($6.99) boasted slices of lean meat juicy as a rare steak with a smooth, rich tahini-based sauce. His accompanying baba ghannouj was creamy as churned butter with a perfect spot of bitterness, and the hummus was thick as velvet yet not too rich or pasty. The falafel ($3.50) was wrapped in a cold pita, which made for slightly weird eating, but the chickpea nuggets were crispy as croutons and golden as afternoon sunshine.

Wonder(ful) bread: In addition to its scrumptious salads and sandwiches, Mediterranean Bakery knocks it out of the park with its brilliant breakfast pitas. Homemade dough, topped pizza-style with meat, cheese, vegetables or zaatar (a lustrous combination of thyme, sesame seed and olive oil) is fired in a brick oven. At $1.75 to $3.25, the pitas are cheaper than a latte. They're the size of your typical thin-crust, foofy upscale pizza, making them much more satisfying than a Danish.

Owners Charbel and Patricia Malouf and Bassam Monzer run a tight, friendly ship whose food is surprisingly consistent for having been open for only two months. My only complaint is that they aren't located next to my house.

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