As luck would have it my good friend, Peggy, was available for trying out a restaurant that she had touted as really delicious, and since it serves Lebanese food I was excited. So off we went today to check it out.
It is located on Euclid Avenue between Maryland and McPherson on the east side of the street, next to the Golden Grocer.
This is a warm and welcoming place. Today was one of those gray, chilling March days, and immediately we were greeted with hot, fragrant tea while we perused the menu.
Peggy had brought me some hummus from there last week and it was so lemony and good that I was tempted to order it again, but in the interest of experiencing the menu, I ordered the Babaganoush and was I glad I did.
Babaganoush is a combination of pureed roasted eggplant with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. At Central Cafe it comes with their homemade pita bread that is a long oval and is served fresh and hot! The Babaganoush was absolutely fabulous. Not only that, but the portion is large enough for four.
Peggy and I shared their Lentil Soup, it was perfect for the rawness of the weather; soothingly warm and flavorful.
We also shared a Beef Shawarma Sandwich. It came on the same warm pita, which was easily 6 or 7 inches long, filled with thinly sliced marinated beef, tahini, tomatoes, onions, parsley and pickled turnip. Talk about delicious; it was absolutely yummy. And all through the meal Nesreen, the younger daughter of the owner, kept filling our cups with hot tea.
This cafe is also a bakery so naturally we were anxious to have dessert. Peggy was well aware of their Baklava ( which is spelled Baklawa on their menu ) and she told me it was the absolute best. However, Nesreen mentioned that her father had just taken this traditional cake, that takes many hours to prepare, out of the oven and it was almost ready to serve. Naturally we just had to have a piece, and since we had just had a rather filling lunch we opted for two Baklawah "fingers"(miniature cylinders of baklawah) to tide us over until the cake, Namoura, was cool enough to eat.
Mahoud Michael Jaber, the owner, chef and baker brought us the cake. It is a yellow cake with the texture of cornbread, made with coconut and then while it's still hot, a mixture of honey and rosewater plus other secret ingredients, are poured over the cake which seeps all the way through making it moist and delicious. Mahoud Jaber explained that the preparation of this cake takes at least 12 hours for two days to complete. It is a labor of love for him and an absolute delight for anyone who likes a fragrant, warm, sweet dessert. The aroma alone is transporting.
Do go and try this little gem of a place. It is family owned and operated and you will receive a warm welcome from this lovely family. There is another daughter, Ahlam, whom we did not meet, but I look forward to doing so soon. Check out their website. They also deliver.
The Central Cafe and Bakery
331 North Euclid 63108
314-875-0657 FAX 314-875-0658