Omnivore - Falafel fix at Ameer's and Olive Bistro

Middle Eastern food at its cheapest best


Apparently, I'm on a Middle Eastern jag. The Friday before brunch Sunday at Couscous, my friends and I returned to Ameer's Mediterranean Grill, one of our favorites this year.

This trip, I ordered ground, sauteed lamb encircled by a thick, creamy ribbon of hummus (above). Actually, I didn't know that the lamb was going to be ground when I ordered it - the menu doesn't say so - and I balked when it arrived at the table. I've found that most ground meats in Middle Eastern and Greek restaurants are way too oily for my taste. But the Israeli owners make judicious use of the olive oil - to the extent I asked for some tahini sauce to wet things down a bit. It's a huge portion. I took half of it home and ate the rest at 2 a.m.

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My friend Jay ordered the falafel plate with hummus and cabbage salad. My temptation was to shove my plate out of the way and grab his. The big globes of crispy-fried, seasoned chickpeas have little equal in our city. The cabbage and a salad of chopped cukes and tomato added a nice tang, as the latter did with my lamb dish.

The baklava, only $1.50, is absolutely magical, sweet and nutty, crispy and gooey, aromatic with rose water.

Ameer's offers a menu of six specials. The deal is that you have to give the kitchen 24-hours' notice and your party must include at least four. One is "Mulukhiya wa roz," something I've never seen anywhere in our city. It's a stew made with jute leaves and lamb. Apparently, jute leaves are commonly eaten in Middle Eastern and North African countries. If you Google Ameer's particular dish, it will come up number-one, with very few following.

Another special that intrigues me is okra cooked in a tomatoey sauce with lamb. Okra's a world-wide favorite that arrived in the American Southland in the late 1700s.

Satisfying my falafel craving

My small pilfering of falafel off Jay's plate established a craving that wouldn't let go for the next few days, so I landed at my favorite Mediterranean-Middle Eastern spot in Atlanta, Olive Bistro, which has expanded to three locations around town. As usual, I hit the Midtown Location on Ponce.

I didn't have to look at the menu. I ordered the falafel wrapped in fluffy pita bread with tahini sauce, hummus, lettuce, and tomato. It's a messy thing to eat but satisfied my craving. One warning I always give people about the food here: garlic, garlic, and more garlic. Don't plan on intimate conversation with a garlic-free lover afterward.

After lunch or dinner at Olive Bistro, if you don't grab a dessert there, you can stop at Zesto a few blocks up the road and indulge in my frequently mentioned obsession: a Toffee Coffee Arctic Swirl.