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Al-Amir Café (Review)

By Jenny Strickland · August 24th, 2010 · Lunchline
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I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to Mediterranean food. I get the gyro every time, no exceptions. But I’m going to lunch at Al-Amir Café (326 E. Eighth St., Downtown; 513-721-9299) for my first food-writing assignment, so I figure it is time to broaden my horizons and step out of my comfort zone.

It's moderately busy this afternoon at the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern diner. For a building that seems so modest and little on the outside, it's very open in the dining room. Many business lunches are going on, and there are others just dining alone. I find Anne, CityBeat’s Dining section editor, who I'm eating with today.

Usually I’d know what I want, but since I’m on a mission to be open-minded, I actually look at the menu. There is a wide selection of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, a lot of kabobs and some things even Anne has never even heard of. But someone who isn't very adventurous could also easily find something to eat here, with offerings like burgers, chicken, even a fish sandwich … and a gyro. I really don’t know what to order without my security gyro.

Not even five minutes later, the server arrives and recommends the Kafta Kabob. Since I don’t have anything else to go on, I decide to trust this woman.

Al-Amir’s chef, Mike Rasras, is also the restaurant’s owner. He and his family have been in business since June, but, according to Rasras, they haven’t been as busy as he’d expected.

The food arrives shortly. Anne's vegetarian platter has a liberal helping of hummus along with some falafel and baba ghanoush that is seasoned to taste rather meaty. The hummus is sprinkled with sumac, a deep red spice that adds a smoky dimension to the dip’s flavor, in addition to making it look exotic. This hummus was delicious. I’d recommend it to anybody.

I expect my kabob to be the traditional “cubes of meat on a stick” you normally think of when ordering kabobs. Instead, it looks like a huge serving of Greek meat loaf on top of buttery long grain rice. Each of our dishes has a small side of fresh salad topped with lots of oregano, oil and vinegar. Everything tastes good, and I want to keep eating but I get full fast. The Kafta Kabob is very filling and well worth the $7.85.

The portions are generous and you get your money’s worth, which is especially nice for a broke college student like me. Prices for entrées range from about $5-$20, the most expensive dish being the Al-Amir House Kabob Platter. When it comes to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, these people really seem to know what they’re doing.

I have to say my mission was most successful. Not only did I try new things, I also liked them. I’d recommend Al-Amir to anyone who likes, or even just wants to try, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food.


CONTACT JENNY STRICKLAND: dining@citybeat.com

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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