After a few bites, I was really feeling sorry for poor Pappaw. The food was so incredibly bad that at one point I just let ’em have it: “Oh, so she’s not your grandmother; she’s the frozen vegetable guy’s grandmother!”
That remains the meanest review I’ve ever written, but the place stayed in business for ages so I guess somebody liked bone-dry okra and greasy beans. But I was pretty excited when I got a nice e-mail this summer saying that a new restaurant had taken over the site of that debacle.
I’m glad to report that La Badiya has redeemed the Country Kitchen’s sins. This friendly, low-key restaurant makes good, authentic fresh food that really is from somebody’s grandmother’s recipes; somebody’s Turkish grandmother. And guess what the Turkish word for grandmother is? Anneanne. I like it.
We had a wonderful dinner at La Badiya. To start, while there’s no liquor served at La Badiya, they make their own fresh raw juices and smoothies to order. I had the Carrot, Orange, Apple and Beet juice combo ($3.65), a tall glass of healthiness that looked fiery and tasted fantastic. The orange juice accent made the vegetables seem sweet. From the “Make Your Own Smoothie” list, Hubby had a fresh Mango Smoothie ($4.25) that was clearly natural and not pumped up with artificial thickeners and sweeteners
I went with the Greek salad ($6.25) for a starter so that hubby could steal my beets. The plate was piled high with loads of sliced romaine topped with dry, crumbly feta and garnished with good Kalamata olives. The spinach pie ($3.65) was an individual calzone-style pocket. While the filling was good, the only bad news was that they’d warmed the pastry in the microwave, which never does pastry any good.
Our favorite appetizer was the Tomato Kibbi ($6.99). This is a vegan variation of a dish I’d always seen made with meat, and I really preferred this version. Instead of fried meat and bulgur patties, La Badiya serves a raw salad of bulgur with intense tomato concentrate, delicately seasoned with onions and cumin. It was presented with a decanter of olive oil and a basket of fresh pita bread. La Badiya’s staff was so attentive that when I said I was taking the rest of the Kibbi home to my vegan friend, they brought us a small order of falafel to take along, too — on the house.
Almost all the menu items at La Badiya are available with and without meat. We tried the Shrimp Gallaba ($15.99), but there are Lamb, Beef, and Chicken options ($13.99) and a Veggie version ($10.99), as well. If you imagine a fajita plate — sizzling hot, with sautéed onions and tomatoes and loads of slivered peppers, add carrots and mushrooms and swap the Mexican seasoning with oregano and sumac, you’ve got it. This would be an easy entrée choice for a timid eater, but just as satisfying if you are a Lebanese food aficionado. The jasmine rice that’s served as a side dish choice with all the entrees is topped with toasted slivered almonds. It’s excellent.
The Lamb and Chicken Shawerma combo ($13.99), our second entrée choice, was a carnivore’s delight. Large portions of both meats surrounding that good jasmine rice, and served with two sauces on the side — tahini, which was perfect for the milder chicken, and garlic sauce, which was intense and really stood up to the lamb. If you’re a garlic lover or have any fear of vampires, this sauce is for you.
I’m not usually a big Greek baklava fan. With all that gooey honey, it can be a bit too sweet for me. But La Badiya’s Lebanese Baklawa ($2.75) is much more to my taste. The pastry is rolled into cigar shapes, filled with ground walnuts and topped with minced pistachios. I loved it with a demitasse of rich Turkish Coffee ($3.99). The Cream Caramel was not as successful — a little overcooked, with rubbery edges — but the caramel sauce was lovely. It may be better on another visit. I’ll definitely be back to try it again.
We didn’t indulge, but La Badiya does offer a hookah lounge with about 30 different hookah flavors. Their website has details, and also information on student discounts and happy hour pricing. ©
Go: 599 Donaldson Rd., Erlanger
Surf: labadiya.com and Facebook
Hours: 11 a.m.-Midnight Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday; Noon-2 a.m. Saturday, Noon-Midnight Sunday.
Red Meat Alternatives: Many