A couple months back a blog reader invited me out to lunch at one of his favorite places, Sahara Greek & Lebanese Cafe. This week I finally took him up on the offer and we decided to meet for lunch. I made the cross-city drive over to Sahara and wondered if John would turn out to a foodie blogger stalker. Sahara is located on East Lafayette Street behind Cabo’s and next door to Lindy’s Chicken. A large sign announces it presence, and the parking lot is long and narrow. All of the spots near the restaurant were packed, but I was able to find a spot around the back of an adjacent building.
The restaurant is a long slung structure clad in dark peach paint. Moss green trims rings the windows and door frames. A neon open sign faces the street. The entrance is set 3/4 to the back of the building. When I arrived I mapped out possible escape routes in my head. I approached the rear door and gave it a hearty pull. I soon realized it was locked. It appeared to be used as a storage area and I noticed a stack of chair and other assorted restaurant items.
After entering through the correct door I took stock of the interior. To the left was a cash register, kitchen, and bathrooms. There was also a case full of what appeared to be dessert items. To the right and through a small archway was the main dining area. A black and white tiled floor served as the foundation for rows of tan colored tables and black metal chairs. The walls were painted a green similar to the exterior trim. It was fairly subdued compared to other Lebanese restaurants I have visited.
Standing near the cash register I scanned the room for John. I spotted him sitting at a table near the front with a woman who I presumed to be his wife. It looked like I was not the only one who feared meeting a possible axe murder for gyros and tabbouleh. I approached the table and introduced myself. John and his wife were very pleasant people, and my axe murder fears were quickly put to bed. While we chatted about the practice of law, Jefferson County’s miserable school system, and working in politics, I looked over the menu. John decided to order the grape leaves while I opted for the chicken shawarma and gyro platter. For my sides I opted for rice and salad.
While we waited for our food our waiter kept our drink glasses topped off, and I noticed the restaurant was spotless even during the lunch rush. A few minutes later our food appeared at the table and I was glad I skipped breakfast. On a large oblong white plate were two piles of meat. At the top sat a heap of chicken shawarma. Tucked underneath it were strips of warm gyro meat. The ends of the plate were anchored by a pile of rice to the left, and a Greek salad to the right. I also was given a meat stuffed grape leaf to try. John had requested extra feta cheese for the salads and indicated that past experience had shown him that they go a bit light on the cheese. He was correct, and I appreciated the extra cheese.
The grape leaf was very good. Inside the moist dark green binding were bits of meat and rice. The two meats on my plate were also very good. The chicken schawarma was juicy and well seasoned. The gyro meat had a bite from the lamb and was crispy on the edges. I alternated between the two and dipped each piece in the silver cup of Tzatziki Sauce. The rice and the salad (with the addition of the extra feta) made a tasty and filling supporting cast. Overall my lunch was fantastic. It was well worth the drive from the northeast section of the city, and it was great meeting John and his lovely wife.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating: