Simply Delicious Greek Mediterranean Cuisine has opened at 327 E. Arlington Blvd. offering all the heart-healthy and authentic flavors of the region in dishes that live up to the restaurant’s name.
Centrally located between Greenville Boulevard and Evans Street, next to My Sister’s Closet, owners Najeh Jabbar and Sami Salaheldeen serve a variety of choices from appetizers like falafel to salads, soups and savory filo pies to authentic gyros, souvlaki or shawarma sandwiches and kabobs to sweet desserts like baklava or kanafeh.
The Mediterranean is known for its blue zones where life expectancy is much higher due to the residents’ active lifestyles and healthy diets rich in fruits, vegetables and lean meats, and Jabbar and Salaheldeen are excited to bring their family recipes and cultural heritage from their home country of Palestine to Greenville.
Eating their food is like walking in a garden, picking your favorite vegetables and adding flavors like garlic, lemon, olive oil and thyme to name a few. It’s a vegetarian heaven and you can’t help but feel good inside and out when you eat it. Add on your favorite meat dishes from chicken, lamb, beef or fresh grilled shrimp and you have a healthy meal that feeds your body and soul.
You can see the passion in the owners’ attitudes and taste the authenticity in their dishes. “We mix classic flavors with natural ingredients and homemade cooking. As a result, our food is well-traveled and vibrant and will take you on a journey through the exciting tastes of the Mediterranean coastline,” Salaheldeen said.
I started my fresh food tour by sampling a variety of their popular appetizers. They have a dozen to choose from including the kibba which is fried minced ground meat mixed with cracked wheat and spices, Turkish salad, or maybe labneh which is olive oil, mint leaves, and a side of kalamata olives.
They have a variety of dips as well. By ordering a few options paired with thick sliced pita bread for dipping, you can create a tailored tapas party for just you or a group of your friends or family. Each dish is prepared fresh, scratch-made, colorful and full of health and vitality. I started with one of my favorites, the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, also called dolmades. Start with a fresh grape leaf which looks like a small collard green, fill it with a mixture of cooked rice, mint and lemon juice then wrap it up. The leaves are boiled for several minutes allowing the leaf to retain its vibrant rich green color. It’s super mellow and earthy and inside is bright and vibrant from the fresh lemon juice. They are also serve a version with meat.
Next I moved on to another classic, the hummus, a dip made with chickpeas, tahini paste and lemon juice. Tahini is sesame seeds that have been ground to a fine paste. It’s blended to a creamy finish and topped with a spoonful or marinated chickpeas and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Chick peas are rich in vitamins, amino acids and, most importantly, protein. They have a nice nutty flavor.
I kept my tapas party going by trying their tzatziki dip, which is made with finely chopped cucumbers, fresh yogurt and garlic mixed together creating a cool and refreshing dip that is perfect by itself or it can be added to any of their meat dishes for a pop of vibrancy.
Next we move on to the baba ghannouj dip. This big mouthful of a word offers up big flavor from the smoked eggplant puree that has been mixed with tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon and parsley. You get a smokiness from the roasting of the earthy eggplant paired with smooth olive oil with a citrus kick at the end. It’s a unique crowd favorite everyone should try.
I also had a chance to sample their traditional Greek salad with ribbons of chopped Romaine lettuce topped with chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, hunks of salty, briny Feta cheese, sweet red onions all drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was a Greek symphony singing a healthy tune. As you can see olive oil plays an important part in many of their dishes not just as a finishing drizzle, but olive oil is rich in mono-saturated fats, helps to reduce inflammation, and prevents against heart disease. This is just one healthy reason to love their food.
Additional menu items include their traditional Mediterranean pies made from flaky and buttery filo pastry like the zaatar made with thyme and olive oil or maybe you fancy the manakeesh pie made with spinach and cheese on flatbread. I also have to introduce you to the moussaka which is a Greek style lasagna layered with eggplant, potatoes and ground beef sautéed with tomato sauce.
Let’s end our Mediterranean food tour on a meaty note with their chicken and beef shawarma, which are seasoned meats layered and roasted on a vertical spit. As the meat spins and roasts, the heat creates a bit of a crust outside while the inside retains its succulent moisture. The flavors are deep and varied. They also offer options like lamb kabobs, one of their specials, made with seasoned lamb. Add on a dollop of that beautiful cool tzatziki or their spicy tomato salsa for brightness.
As you can see, it’s more than a garden of flavor and tradition, it’s a movement. If you want to get on the Mediterranean train and welcome in amazing taste, flavor and health to your diet, go check them out. Simply Delicious Greek Mediterranean Cuisine is open 11 a.m. to 1o p.m. Monday-Sunday. For more information or to place a to-go order call 252-565-8168.