For our second destination, we decided to visit Mediterranean Delite, a San Carlos restaurant specializing, predictably, in Mediterranean food. Owned by a Palestinian family, its cultural influence shows in the decor. From the moment we entered the restaurant, we noticed tables and walls peppered with pictures of Palestinians and Palestine itself, and soft but pervasive Mediterranean melodies played throughout the restaurant creating a lively, cozy atmosphere. The building itself was small— there was enough space for maybe a half-dozen or so tables, seating three or four each— only adding to the relaxed and comfy air that its owners seemed to be (successfully) striving for. That effect was spoiled somewhat by the emptiness of the restaurant while we were there, admittedly at off-hours, but despite that (or because of it) the staff was extremely friendly and attentive.
In a stark contrast to our last meal at the Refuge, ordering our meals was a relatively quick process. While partly due to the upfront payment method of the restaurant, the quaint wooden menu dangling from the ceiling presented a concise list of Mediterranean staples, from falafel to shawarma to kebabs. I stared at the menu for a couple minutes, contemplating what I wanted, before I snapped out of my trance and noticed the cashier giving me a puzzled look. I tried to make up for my shaky first impression by attempting to crack a joke, but upon meeting only more blank stares, I shamefully ordered my falafel wrap and shuffled awkwardly over to the table a waiter was preparing for our meal. After a couple painfully long seconds of me standing uncomfortably close to him while I waited to sit down, I succeeded in scaring him off as well. While I pouted and reflected on where my life went wrong, Jasper settled on a pair of lamb kebabs and pita, naturally paired with homemade hummus and baba ganoush. He exchanged a quick smile with the cashier and waiter, and I couldn’t help but feel a mix of resentment and envy for his sociability.
The food came relatively quickly, luckily, because I had fasted for at least a day before my meal (that makes me sound more put together than “I woke up too late to eat breakfast and forgot my lunch money”). I started with the pita bread, which came almost too hot to touch in the classic plastic, latticed basket— you know the one I mean, the one that french fries always come in, with waxed paper.
The pita bread was delicious and the hummus, amazing. The bread was perfectly toasted, if a little hot at first, but it was just the right combination of fluffy and crispy, without the weird cardboard texture of the week-old Safeway pita bread to which I have unfortunately become accustomed. The hummus, with a little dollop of olive oil resting at its center like a tiny oasis, was just as good, especially while the pita bread was still hot. I really liked the baba ganoush as well, with its just-creamy-enough texture, although baba ganoush is a more polarizing dish in general, especially if you don’t like eggplant. My only complaint with the sides was the ratio. I’ve always been liberal with dips and sauces, and despite the copious amounts of hummus and baba ganoush that I heaped on my pita, there was still at least a third left over when I was done, even though by the end I was actually spooning humus on the pita bread because scooping wouldn‘t collect enough. I ended up purchasing more pita bread to finish it off, so I guess it worked out for them. At any rate, it was more than worth it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Now, to the centerpiece of my meal: the lamb skewers. As a self-proclaimed lover of Mediterranean food, and lamb in particular, I will admit to coming into this particular restaurant with pretty high standards, especially after the pita bread and humus/baba ganoush. The lamb skewers that I got, however, were disappointing. Don’t get me wrong — they were okay, I didn’t get food poisoning or anything— but the lamb was far too tough, not incredibly flavorful, and just plain mediocre. There was only a tiny amount of lamb for the $13.95 that I paid, offset slightly by the quality of humus and pita. On the whole, while I think I enjoyed my overall eating experience, I expected better from the lamb.
Since the moment I sat down, I had been engaged in a lively debate with myself over why I decided to buy a mango (not even a good flavor like peach or lemonade) Snapple to accompany my meal. It seemed like a disappointing beverage to accompany what I expected to be an excellent meal. I was so deep in the midst of my mental civil war that I barely noticed our waiter setting my falafel wrap down in front of me in what seemed like no time at all (in reality, it had been about ten minutes; to say my mind wanders easily would be a gross understatement). It had been a while since I ate any legitimate Mediterranean food, and my excitement to devour my meal nearly got the best of me when— in my ferocious ripping of the foil which encased my wrap— I almost tore the flatbread which bound all the tasty ingredients inside asunder! I took a moment to compose myself and went in for the first bite— it was a delicious disaster. My palate became a fireworks show of powerful flavors, from the nutty, fluffy falafel balls and the tangy, pickled vegetables, to the silky, soothing tahini sauce. Unfortunately, this blissful first bite had unintended consequences— my mouth and almost every article of clothing (somehow, even my hat) was dripping with tahini sauce, hummus, and a multitude of other unknown sauces and juices. It was a pathetic sight, no doubt, however in my euphoria I paid no attention to my reprehensible situation and opted instead to continue wolfing down my wrap with unsettling vigor, all the while sneaking globs of Jasper’s hummus and baba ganoush into my wrap, with my concern for our friendship taking a backseat to my voracious gluttony for the time being. Although I finished it disturbingly quickly, the wrap was fairly large and by the end of my feast I felt sufficiently filled. Therefore, I believe the $8.50 price tag was reasonable, and I would recommend this phenomenal falafel wrap to Mediterranean lovers and newbies alike.
Before we left, Jasper and I opted to buy some hummus and pita to take home to our families. While our intentions were good, we couldn’t make it through the short car ride home from San Carlos without greedily devouring the mouthwatering pita smothered in delectable hummus. As I drove, I pondered over the logistics of how so many flavors could possibly be packed into one wrap, and decided I would be going back to Mediterranean Delite later that week to gather more data for my experiment. While Jasper may not have been as thrilled with his meal as I was, we both enjoyed the cozy ambiance of the restaurant and the accommodating staff, and have agreed to award Mediterranean Delite with four out of a possible five stars. As for the hummus, the fact that neither of us could even last a short drive home without ravenously attacking it speaks for itself. For a quick and affordable taste of Levantine cuisine, we highly recommend all Bears give Mediterranean Delite a try— you might be surprised with what this unassuming little restaurant has to offer!