*THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED*
Oh yeah, I definitely caught the spirit here. The owner of ~MEDITERRANEAN SPIRIT~, Khalil Aboudamous, and his wife, Lubna, really have the spirit. Their regular customers totally have the spirit. You will too. Because at this little hole-in-the-wall joint, man, are they doing good things to Mediterranean food. In fact, Lubna's father was a chef for 40 years in Jerusalem, and he helped the couple during the first few months of opening, which was about ten months ago. Obviously having mad skills in the kitchen runs in the family.
First off, I gotta tell ya, this place has the best pita bread I've found in the city. I am so freaking excited, because I never find good pita anywhere to make sandwiches at home, or for tasty snaxx. These are the dense and fluffy kind, made by Ross Bakery, and since Khalil and Lubna have the spirit, you can even buy a bag for your own consumption at home ($2 for a bag of five pitas, and they are kosher). Now Khalil is gonna have to see me each week, coming by for my pita bread. Rainbow Foods, are you reading this? Buy from this bakery, yo.
Now let's discuss a couple of things you can scoop up with this heavenly bread: a natural place to start is their creamy and rich hummus ($3.99), or the smoky and tart baba ghannoush ($3.99), both totally scrumptious.
Another dish you don't see everywhere is fool mudamas ($3.99), a tangy mash of fava beans with garlic, tomato, jalapeño, and herbs. I was told they make it with canned favas—I'd love to try this when favas are actually in season, but I guess canned favas are de rigueur; it was still mighty tasty. The fool (the dish, not your ex) came with a dollop of chili sauce in the middle (a delicious lake of fire) and thinly sliced pickles alternating with little piles of parsley around the edge of the plate. Pleasing presentation—it's a nice touch. If you are seeking a break from your usual order of hummus or Baba G, yo, give this one a whirl.
If you take a peek into the gourmet bargain bin (uh, it's practically the entire menu), you'll find the vegetarian special ($7.95), a full-on extravaganza of two falafel, two tender dolmas, hummus, baba ghannoush, and tabouleh. The falafel will knock your soxx off—they are quite perfect, with a delightful texture and a crispy exterior that isn't the slightest bit greasy. Even die-hard carnivores will attack. If anyone finds better falafel in the city, let me know and we'll do a taste-off. These things fully represent. Everything on the plate is completely fresh and clean-tasting—the tabouleh also tastes just-made. Oh, and wait until you try the savory tahini sauce—it's downright addictive.
There is one thing that cracked me up, and it's because I'm inappropriate that way: it was the placement of the two falafel balls on the plate with a long mound of tabouleh and some dolmas pointing out of it. Goodness. I'd recommend separating the falafel. (Or keeping people like me with a sense of humor that's not unlike a fifth grader's away from this dish, which will be tough, because it's totally a winner.)
I am so glad Khalil suggested this next plate, because this was my favorite, and it's not even on the menu (yet!): a hearty pile of perfectly seasoned chicken shawerma surrounded by a plentiful serving of hummus (instead of the usual sides of rice or couscous). The chicken was so tender and flavorful, and was tangled up with grilled onion—what a dish. I couldn't stop eating it. It totally took over my brain. I was helpless before its savory goodness. Oh, and all the meats are halal, FYI.
There's also a kufta kebab plate ($9.95) with two skewers of finely ground lamb that they grind in-house. The skewers were herby and succulent, and you get six patties total, plus a side of red cabbage, rice or couscous topped with mousabeha (a tomato and garbanzo bean sauce), PLUS that pita bread. Yes, leftovers are imminent, lucky you. Any hungry men in your life will totally commune with this plate o' sustenance. Khalil mentioned another hit is the whole tilapia plate, also $9.95, and not on the menu.
Everything here is made with care and love—Khalil and Lubna are really proud of their food, and will totally insure your order is just what you need or want, even if it's not exactly on the menu. Be sure to inquire what the dish of the day is, and don't hesitate to ask questions—they are happy to educate.
For dessert you can order an Arabic coffee ($1.50), which is just like a Turkish coffee, so beware the sludge at the bottom. (Ask for it sweet if you like your coffee at all sweetened.) There is also mint tea offered ($1.50). Want some sweets for your sweet? There are desserts like baklava ($1.50) or the house-made triangular treat of phyllo dough stuffed with custard and sweetened with rosewater (it sounds like "warbat" but Khalil and I couldn't figure out how to spell it to save our lives—anyone?).
While this isn't a date place per se, it's a clean and friendly little neighborhood joint that's just right for an easy and affordable (and totally delicious) lunch or dinner—especially if you're out with the kids, or even by yourself. Get ready to feel the spirit, seriously.
1303 Polk St.
Cross: Bush St.
San Francisco, CA 94109