What’s good here?
The Baba Ghannouj is a favorite. The name may seem unusual, yet customers enjoy the flavors of roasted eggplant mixed with tahini (a sesame seed paste), as well as fresh garlic, lemon juice, and jalapenos. This is served with pita bread backed on the premises – to share or enjoy as a meal. The beef and lamb are ground on site, which results in freshness, tenderness, and leanness. The Tea Room Gyro and the Kofta Burger features these melt-in-your-mouth meats. Falafels, a seasoned mixture of ground garbanzo beans, parsley, garlic, onion, and spices and then deep fried in cholesterol-free canola oil, are made fresh. One distinct platter is the Mijadarah, featuring lentil and rice cooked together with cumin and caramelized onions and then served with pita bread and their specialty Falaheen salad: finely chopped fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, green onions, and parsley dressed with virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Dressings are made with the finest olive oils.
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“This is not a Middle Eastern restaurant,” says Ahmad Jabali, owner of Mediterranean Tea Room. “We try to concentrate on different flavors of the Mediterranean – Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern.” There are some of the dishes associated with Middle Eastern cuisine, such as hummus and tabbouleh, yet there is also the Eggplant Pita Pizza, which has eggplant, kalamata olives, scallions, tomatoes, garlic, jalapenos, and feta cheese on a pita and served with a Greek salad. At night, the restaurant serves a broiled shrimp platter. Customers can order a salad, sandwich, or platter with grilled, marinated chicken. For dessert, Turkish coffee or regular coffee can accompany such dishes as Lady Fingers, Pistachio Baklava, or Kataifi, which is phyllo filled with walnuts and almonds.
What does the place look like?
The focal point is the wall-size mural of a vibrant Mediterranean scene. Coordinating colors throughout the interior restaurant are dark greens and reds. An enclosed patio is equipped with ceiling fans. There is an exposed wine rack and a few customers can sit up at an open bar. The exterior is stucco.
How did it get started?
Ahmad Jabali, originally Palestinian, left his home at the age of 18 and eventually immigrated to America. He worked in restaurants to learn the business and then opened Mediterranean Tea Room in the spring of 1997. “Many of the dishes are ones I grew up eating,” he says. “It’s important that we always serve the freshest vegetables and other ingredients. I go to the farmers market often to shop. We want to ensure that our dishes are not only tasty, but healthy.” Jabali is hands-on most days, greeting customers and serving wherever needed. He also will sometimes cook the dishes.
Who eats here?
Mothers with daughters, elderly companions, friends, couples. “Probably 80 to 90 percent of our customers are regulars,” says Jabali. “Some come in here three-plus times a week. Many I know by name.”