Hummus has always been a staple of my diet. I eat the chickpea dish habitually, as an accompaniment to just about anything. After traveling in Israel for two weeks and experiencing all the tourist must-dos (floating in the Dead Sea, riding a camel in the Negev, climbing Masada at dawn), it's the taste of the silky-smooth, garlicky spread that I most reminisce about.
So I was skeptical when I first discovered Mecca Grill, a Lebanese restaurant in a muted Wash Park plaza. Could it live up to my expectations? Would the Lebanese take on my favorite Middle Eastern eats taste as good as the Israeli approach? Opened in 2009, the tiny spot—only a dozen tables—doesn't look like much, with stark orange paint and wall hangings.
My doubts dissipated when I caught sight of the falafel on a nearby table; the nuggets appeared perfectly fried on the outside and light brown on the inside. (Many spots mix in an abundance of parsley and coriander, turning the inner filling green and overpowering the chickpea flavor.) Anxious for my own plate, I quickly scanned the inexpensive menu (nothing's more than $10.95).
Our waiter had barely introduced himself before I ordered the hummus appetizer. Within seconds, a basket of warm, toasted pita arrived. I hastily ripped off a piece and plunged it into the oil-and-paprika-drizzled dip. I bit in, immediately embracing the familiar taste. I could have devoured the whole plate if my friend hadn't cautioned me to save room. I'm thankful I did: The chicken kafta—two skewers of seasoned chicken atop basmati rice—was tender and juicy, and the thinly sliced lamb and beef in the shawarma entrée were just right for making mini pita sandwiches.
A dinner for two may run $30, but there will be enough for leftovers—for both of you. Mecca may not be a Middle Eastern shawarma stand, but the friendly service, relaxed atmosphere, and tasty food make dining here a rare retreat. Mecca Grill, 270 S. Downing St., 303-722-4100