A few months ago, I posted about the International Grocery at 80th and Metcalf. In the comments readers Goofy Girl, meesha v. and a blogless gentleman named Leonard mentioned a place nearby called Mediterranean Market. A Twitter shout-out from Bull E. Vard yesterday reminded me, so I was off to check it out.
This is a small, clean market and deli on the East side of Metcalf just north of 75th street. It’s the more spacious and inviting version of International Grocery, for it features at least five tables inside, a well organized series of shelves with various Middle Eastern foodstuffs, and a deli counter with a few meats and cheeses.
The set-up is a little confusing. I ordered my food at the register, but I think I was supposed to go down to the deli counter to place the order. I ordered a chicken shish kebab only to discover that they were out of chicken. Oh well, I went with beef. The guy at the register was possibly the owner, and he was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered in food service. He kept saying “thank you, I hope you like it!”
The menu is small and rather typical: falafel, gyros, kefta, shish kebab, baba ghanoush, hummus, tabouleh, etc. Sure there is a lot to try here but I’m only one man on one day.
After a 10 or 15 minute wait, the sandwich arrived much as you would expect, wrapped in a pita with lettuce, tomato, onion and, well, no sauce. It was a good enough sandwich w/o any sauce because the meat was marinated and fairly well seasoned. The meat was cut into large cubes and then grilled. The cut of beef was a little tough, possibly a sirloin so I wish it was chopped smaller or cooked more rare.
The sandwich came with a generous spoonful of rice. I was really excited because it looked just like the rice pilaf I had at International Grocery which was so good. Alas, the it was simply not up to snuff. It was so salty that I couldn’t finish it (that’s sayin’ somthing) and had been tossed with melted butter. Butter is not bad in and of itself, and can even be nice with rice, but this was far too rich for my taste. I really didn;t want to eat any of it, but unlike that candy-ass Gordon Ramsey I never spit anything out just cuz it ain’t no good.
The plate also had a couple small dill pickle spears and a handful of very good Greek olives, half of which were pitted.
I heard some guys talking about how good the baklava was so I ordered some to take with me. I broke open the container later, veritably thrilled to indulge myself in this delicacy of which I am so fond. As accompaniment, I even splurged on what the machine in the staff room loosely calls a “cafe mocha.” Unfortunately, the substance that they loosely call “hot chocolate-making syrup” had run out and I wound up with a gross, watery coffee.
And a baklava that I did not care for. First, not crunchy. I will give them a break here because I did leave it in a plastic container for a good two hours. The relative heat and humidity probably took its toll. Secondly, it was not even a little sweet. At first, this intrigued me, but the gloppy pistachio filling simply didn’t have any flavor of honey, which is the best thing about baklava. Lastly, it smelled weird, kind of like fried food. I suspect that they brushed it with oil, margarine or some piss-poor approximation of butter.
The best part of my meal was a beverage I had seen but never tried: Vimto. It’s basically a kind of red pop, but a little herbier. M.Toast thinks it tastes like cough syrup and I’ll admit that there is some truth to that. But it didn’t bother me, Vimto lives in that liminal space between medicine and candy much like Luden’s Cherry Cough Drops. I spent my lunch hour thinking about what kind of liquor it would be good with. What did I come up with? Vimto & beer. I’m gonna try it, just you wait.
The real attraction here I’m sure is the selection of imported foods. In addition to canned and boxed goods, they have several kinds of feta cheese for sale by the pound, a whole aisle of cookies and sweets and a nice selection of olive and grapeseed oils.
This was a disappointing visit I’m afraid, but I still like the place. They don’t use bad ingredients or cut corners. I’ve heard very good things about this place, so I suspect that they suffer from inconsistency rather than incompetence. It’s certainly worth a repeat visit to see if they are going on the regular lunch rotation.