Did Someone Say Shawarma? Mediterranean Food in the D

By: Cara Boyer | June 26, 2014

There are enough fad diets out there to make any sane person lose his or her marbles. You’ve got the Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, the 24 hour champagne diet. Now, I’m not a registered dietician, but the only one of those strict eating plans that seems the slightest bit reasonable to me is the Mediterranean diet.

If you’ve read up at all on the subject, you know that the Mediterranean diet consists largely of healthy fats and oils, plenty of fish and poultry, and copious amounts of fruits, veggies and whole grains. In a nutshell, it’s a very heart-healthy eating plan.

You may not be familiar with the methods of preparing Mediterranean cuisine, but that’s okay, because there are tons of great Mediterranean restaurants in the Metro Detroit area that will do the hard work for you. Here are a few worth a taste test…

Mezzevino, 120 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, is a brand spankin’ new restaurant from the people who brought you Carson’s American Bistro. The menu is full of various small plates to be shared with the table in typical Mediterranean fashion.

Small bites include Savory Olive and Pickled Pepper Crostini (with house made Greek yogurt cheese), Italian Summer flatbread pizza with cracker-thin crust, Eggplant Chips and Gyros “Slider.” There are also larger plates if you don’t feel like dining family-style.

Happy Hour is held Monday through Friday in the bar area from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (half off all drinks!) and 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. (25 percent off all drinks!).

Assaggi Bistro, 330 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, is a self-described “Rustic Italian and Country French with a touch of Lebanese” restaurant. The menu includes starters like an Antipasti Plate and Prince Edward Mussels, and plenty of salads and wood fired pizzas, like the Pear Pizza with cambozola cheese.

The real stars of the menu can be found under “Innovations.” Maple Mustard Scottish Salmon (with warm lentil salad with Tuscan kale, maple mustard reduction sauce, fennel and arugula salad), Sautéed Chicken Francése (with Parmigianino crust, orecchiette, eggplant, mushroom, tomato and lemon buerre blanc) and Veal Scaloppine (potato gnocchi with artichokes, tomato, caper, sautéed spinach and white wine veal reduction sauce) are all lean and tasty choices.

Café Jole, 30801 Schoenherr Rd., Warren, is a recent discovery on my part, and I can tell you that I’ve been missing out on some serious falafel for the first 23 years of my life. Everything here is so fresh, starting with the frozen fresh squeezed lemonade. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll begin with the Falafel Plate appetizer, which comes with six pieces, so it’s definitely large enough to share or reasonable enough to hog all to yourself.

The Chipotle Black Bean Burger makes all other black bean burgers in existence weep, simply because they are inferior. Other menu items include a Chicken Kafta sandwich (rolled with garlic and pickles), Vegetarian Ghallaba (stir-fried assorted veggies), Salmon Fillet (char-grilled and served with a lemon sauce) and more.

Elie’s Mediterranean Bar and Grill, 263 Pierce St., Birmingham, has a menu full of pita rollups, including Shish Kabob, Lamb Shawarma and Falafel, as well as an extensive entrée list. Main dishes like Warak Enab (grape leaves rolled with ground lamb and rice, cooked in a light lemon sauce), Baked Chicken (with lemon, garlic sauce and rice) and Pistachio Encrusted Whitefish (broiled and dusted with pistachio, served with orange tahini sauce) all grace the menu.

If you’d like to remain super healthy, try one of the smoothies or raw juices. Should your diet allow for a little extra leeway, try something from the full martini bar.

Grape Leaves, with locations in Southfield, Troy and Oak Park, has a menu chock full of healthy and fresh Lebanese dishes. The Falafel Sandwich and Chicken Shawarma are both great choices, and they’ve got plenty more to choose from, like the Veggie Grape Leaves sandwich and Hommous Tabbouli sandwich.

Should you be feeding a crowd, one of Grape Leaves’ specialty Family Feast Combos might suffice: Shish Combo for Two, Sampler Combo for Two, Vegetarian Combo for Two, or Family Combo Tray. Whatever you do, don’t forget a side of garlic spread with some freshly baked bread. You can thank me later.

Cedar Grille, 5377 Crooks Rd., Troy, has a vast menu with small plate items like Baba Ghanouj (roasted eggplant pureed with tahini sauce, fresh lemon and garlic), Vegetarian Grape Leaves and Kibbee Nayeh (lean beef mixed with cracked wheat, onions and herb mix).

This place is great for a mid-day meal, as the lunch bundle includes any sandwich with a large drink and a side of soup or salad for just $8.99. Grilled entrée items like Chicken Harra (topped with sautéed garlic, fresh tomatoes, jalapeño peppers and olive oil), Cedar Mixed Grille (an assortment of beef kafta, chicken tawook and beef kabob) and Shrimp Brochette (served with grilled veggies and garlic butter) are great options for both lunch and dinner.

Mediterranean cuisine is wonderful not only because it tastes great, but because it’s good for you, too. Who ever said eating well had to be a chore? With any of the above entrees at any of the listed restaurants, you’re getting huge flavors and fewer calories. Enjoy!