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A promised land of milk and honey and falafel, Al-Tarboush is the perfect pilgrimage for hungry folk without much cash. Half grocery, half counter-service diner, it has only a few tables, and some of the menu items (e.g. the tabbouleh) come right out of the refrigerated case. Other Middle Eastern goodies include stuffed grape leaves; meat, spinach and cheese pies; and hummus.
"Turkey coma" takes on a whole new meaning at this Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant that relentlessly tempts. Appetizer platters are resplendent with salt-of-the-earth goodness, while main courses are typically beef or lamb over rice or couscous. While most of Aya Sofia's dishes bear a close-cousin resemblance to other Eurasian delicacies such as spanakopita and gyros, the staff is quite fluent at helping to decipher and navigate the menu as needed.
The Cedars caters to Lebanon's banquet needs with a 930 square food dance floor and room for up to 450 guests.
Central Café offers Lebanese cuisine in a fast-casual setting. The menu includes appetizers such as hummus, tabbouleh, fatoush, falafel and kibbe (beef, onions and almonds served with a yogurt sauce.) For heftier meals, Central Café offers sandwiches and entrées, including kebabs (available with chicken, beef or kafta - ground beef with spices, parsley, onions and garlic) and shawarma. The "rotisserie" chicken is a standout, spicy and flavorful. Guests can sit inside or enjoy the small patio. Central Café also offers hookahs.
A contemporary take on the old-fashioned lunch wagon, with food prepared in a traditional commercial kitchen and dished up from the back of a modified pickup. The signature sandwich, a strange mixture of falafel and couscous, is actually the one to skip. The gyro, on the other hand, is good, featuring thin and tender strips of beef. Also available is a curried chicken sandwich. The side dish is a sack of fried naan chips with dipping sauces. Follow Falafelwich on Twitter @falafelwich.
Gyro Grill, along South Kingshighway just north of Chippewa Street, dishes out some of the largest gyros in the city. When the man behind the counter warns you about ordering that second sandwich, take note; they pile a lot of moist, crisp strips of meat on their thick pita. And in their buns, and on a potato and on their salad, too. Diners can get their gyro meat served a number of different ways, including as a Philly cheesesteak. In addition to Gyro Grill's titular dish, they offer a full menu including shawarma, falafel, loaded baked potatoes, chicken wings and French fries. Patrons order from the counter, and those unsure of what they want can grab a takeout menu, which gives out more detail than the large overhead menu.
CLOSED The walls could use a fresh coat of paint, but maybe that's part of the charm of this quintessential college-nabe cheap-eats Middle Eastern joint. You got your hummus, your Greek salads, your falafel...and, yes, your gyros -- which rock. They're available in standard form or with jumbo helpings of meat and feta or in a house-special version topped with hummus instead of tzatziki. Baklava is what's for dessert. Everything costs less than ten bucks (most of it's under $7), and the portions are big enough to stash in your dorm room's mini-fridge to see you through those wee-hour cravings.
Tapas has been all the rage for a while now, and that's fine by us, just as long as Joyia keeps serving small plates of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine -- Middle Eastern and Northern African as well as southern European. The sprawling menu includes familiar dishes (hummus, gyros, meat and seafood kebabs), as well as more ambitious fare, like the lamb tagine, with the meat, apricot and orange rind in a broth perfumed with saffron, or try the chorizo rollos: miniature burritos with sausage, bean, onion and more wrapped in phyllo. Tapas implies small plates, but many of the dishes are large enough to share...yeah, that's crazy. We wouldn't share, either.
A straightforward restaurant -- a single room, cash only -- that serves excellent Middle-Eastern food. As you might expect from the name, the kebabs here are especially good, with a deep char-grilled flavor. Gyros are good, too, thanks to a tasty tzatziki sauce, and falafel is pretty much perfect, each chickpea fritter as fat as a baseball, with a crisp exterior and a soft inside. The tahini sauce is delicious -- and spicy. Those who have been seeking lamb liver or lamb heart will find it here
Layla is St. Louis' only gourmet burger shawarma joint. Located in the heart of The Grove, the restaurant focuses on serving fresh & flavorful fare in an eclectic atmosphere. Fresh ground burgers and fun twists on traditional shawarma sandwiches can be paired with hand-dipped milkshakes, craft cocktails and local brews.
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