The Mediterranean diet is considered a healthy one. When considering the vegetarian options, one can see why.
I am far from vegetarian, but I do spend about a month every year depriving my carnivorous instincts of what they crave. You know, just to prove I can.
When I go vegetarian, I rely heavily on Mediterranean and Indian. Giving the old pointy teeth a break for a bit, while the back ones work overtime, is an idea to which I am no stranger. But as I mentioned, it is only for a month. This is not that month.
Even though this is a meat-eating month for me, I have been dying to try 7 Spice Mediterranean. Nappie Award-winning attorney Nathan Friedlander raves about this place, and I tend to trust his opinion. He’s a pretty good cook in his own right, and a bit of a foodie. I was hoping to take Nathan along but just couldn’t make it work. So I found two others suited for the task.
First, my brother-in-law John “Hammer” Milham was a great choice for this review. Hammer is pretty much more of a vegetarian than anyone I know. He caves from time to time and has a Callaghan’s burger, but 95 percent of the time he’s straight vegetarian and loves Mediterranean food.
Mark Saunders was the other member of our team. Mark has the mind of an engineer, the fingers of a mandolin player, and the palate of someone who lived in Greece for a stint in the service. Say spanikopita. He can say it better, I assure you.
It was sort of the Gospel according to Mark that day as he dined with John and Andrew. With his linguistic skills and first-hand accounts of food from that far away sea, combined with the vegetarian expertise of Hammer and my boyish charm, we were ready to take on the world. Let’s say at least the cuisine of the Middle Eastern world.
It seems as though 7 Spice Mediterranean began as a Mediterranean grocery with a restaurant in the back. I would describe it now as a restaurant with a grocery in the front. Tons of cool soda pops, an olive bar, hard to find ingredients and unpronounceable brand names line shelves and coolers. Hookahs and tobacco sit near unfamiliar candies and strange oils from distant lands. There are things I have no idea what they are used for, and am inclined to find a recipe just so I can use them.
For the most part, we did our best to ignore the grocery and walk straight to the back where the scenery changes, and the restaurant crew welcomes us.
Perusing the menu, John and I are treated to the silky smooth vocal styling of Mark properly pronouncing some of the harder to read words. Not in a pompous way, mind you. We actually enjoyed hearing it. It would have been cool to hear Mark order something in his secondary tongue, but Combo Appetizer ($10.95) really isn’t that hard to pronounce.
Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, feta and Kalamata olives were served with pita and a very smooth tahini sauce. What’s not to like? This was a great cross section of appetizers. The Baba Ghanouj (I bet I’ve seen it spelled 10 different ways) was a standout, as were the stuffed grape leaves. These come with meat or vegetarian. For John’s sake we ordered vegetarian. Maybe if I had ordered the meatier version, Mark and I would have had another sample or two to split.
John is in vegetarian mode after a fall from grace the past weekend, so he ordered the falafel sandwich ($5.75). I’m 50/50 when it comes to getting excited about falafel. This was a good sandwich, though. Hammer’s version came with a side of fries that were recommended, and I now recommend them to you. Nothing special about them, just light and well-seasoned. Also in this order was a cup of lentil soup that was pretty spectacular. I’ve made some less than stellar lentil soup in my past. This was not too heavy for a sunny Monday afternoon. Good job.
Mark knocked it out of the park by ordering the eggplant parmesan sandwich ($6.50) with fries and tabouleh salad ($1 extra). Although the tabouleh was a little overdone with parsley, it was still enjoyable with a fair amount of lemon flavor. But it was the eggplant parmesan sandwich that killed. This deserves to be high on the list of lunch items under $10. Think what a combo at a fast food chain would cost. Compare it to this. Eat the real food, people.
Of course, I am paying for all this so I deserve to step up a notch. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the lamb chop entrée ($16.95). Wonderful chops marinated overnight really hit the spot. I prefer them rare as a bear and these were medium well, but they remained tender. I frankly couldn’t believe I was having lamb chops for lunch at that price.
Grilled vegetables were a nice complement as was my cup of creamy carrot soup. The latter had a rich, sweet flavor and Hammer enjoyed a brotherly spoonful. I myself preferred the lentil soup, but I would still consider it a win-win situation.
For dessert, we were recommended warbat bil ashta ($4.50). Ashta is a clotted cream dessert. Warbat bil ashta is when you wrap it in phyllo (they say Fillo) and fry it to a golden brown. Top that with crushed pistachios and light honey syrup. How do you think it was? Delightfully different.
The three of us parted ways. Mark with a handful of hard to pronounce items from the market. John had a couple of to-go orders and a plan to make my sister believe he cooked it.
Me? I left with a belly full of goodness with my trusty old pair of cheap sunglasses shielding the afternoon rays. Not a bad way to spend a Monday.
7 Spice Mediterranean
3762 Airport Blvd.
Mobile, AL 36608
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