Growing up in the Detroit area, it was pretty easy to take Greek food for granted. There is literally a Greektown in Detroit and Greek food can be found in every suburb. LA, however, is not so fortunate in this Mediterranean fare. Thus, I was pretty excited when I was invited out to the Good Greek Grill‘s new location in Hollywood for a free sampling of their food.
Sierra Madre might be one of LA’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away just east of Pasadena, the town features an old school Main Street reminiscent of the supposed good old days. And just like many little towns of its type, there isn’t a whole lot to. Yet, there are at least a couple of restaurants and bars and we decided to try out Corfu, a Middle Eastern spot.
The Palm Springs area isn’t exactly known for its culinary prowess. You see, septuagenarians don’t really care how their food tastes as long as they can be done with dinner by 6:00. Nonetheless, there are a few places willing to take some risks and offer unique eats (even if they do sport an early bird special to boot). One of these is Catalan in Rancho Mirage, a Mediterranean restaurant in the sense of the European parts of the Mediterranean at least.
Turkish food isn’t exactly the type of food you can find anywhere. Yet, miraculously Pittsburgh isn’t lacking in that department. One of these spots is Daphne Cafe in Shadyside. We arrived on a snowy winter day and sadly found the place empty. Then again, it was also 3 in the afternoon, so not quite prime time.
I’m not sure what it is about my two business school trips, but both have somehow led me to eat Turkish food, which I love but certainly eat rarely. First I went to Cafe Turko in Seattle and this time it was Anatolian Kitchen in Palo Alto. Based on my experience, the menu seemed pretty authentic. Of course, that is just the opinion of a man who has been to Turkey once, but in my mind that was enough.
When I settled in San Francisco, I realized I had to eat something I had been craving for a while: schwarma. Or, if you’re at Arabi in the Rincon Center: shawerma. Whatever the spelling, I needed it. And I needed it with chicken. And I needed it with sauce. And I needed it with nothing else except some pita to wrap it. I hoped that Arabi would satisfy this need, but I was way off.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Big Burrito restaurant mafia in Pittsburgh is kind of a big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that I recently visited a third member of their family: Casbah. Featuring a menu with dubious claims of Mediterranean origin, there could be no doubt that the ever-changing menu looked nothing short of delicious. It also looked nothing short of beyond a student’s budget, which is why I found myself there with the in-laws.
It’s funny how a small college town can feel quite big when winter is so long and eating out is so much more money than a box of mac and cheese. (you need that money for beer, not food). So while I was a student at Michigan, I think I made it to Pita Kabob Grill once. But upon my return to Ann Arbor recently, I found myself with someone who had glorious memories of that little Middle-Eastern hole-in-the-wall and so I doubled down on my visits.
When my buddy recommended heading to a place called Mantee in Studio City, I was really excited to eat a sea cow and hoped the manatees were farm-raised (because we all know they are endangered in the wild). But he quickly corrected me, saying that the restaurant was lacking that all-important second “a” and was actually Mediterranean. And one look at the menu showed this was not your typical Mediterranean. There were no schwarma wraps to be seen here and instead items like that were replaced by unique Lebanese, Turkish and Armenian delights.
On Friday night, I was lucky enough to be invited to an all-expenses-paid dinner courtesy of the Chulews. We headed to a place in a strange part of town that isn’t quite West Hollywood and isn’t quite Beverly Hills called Cayenne Cafe. Not to be confused with the pepper or vehicle, Cayenne was a sort of upscale Middle Eastern restaurant with a side of steakhouse. Being Passover, I was a little bit limited by the menu, because I couldn’t get anything with pita. Fortunately, there was that whole steakhouse thing going on and I could take advantage of that.