Grape Leaves Mediterranean Restaurant
I had decided earlier today that I was going to venture to Chicago’s West Side that abuts one of the near west suburbs called Oak Park. Supposedly there is a stretch along one of the streets that has a great deal of art fare. Being a photographer, I enjoy indulging in that aspect of Chicago. And there are also a few good eateries, which when I found out, set off my appetite alarm. But Chicago’s West Side is notorious for anything and everything except for art and food. Well, unless you are one who hankers for soul food, you may find something pleasing to the tongue. As for me, when I want soul food, I will go home to Ma Williams where I have 100% assurance that I will get some food that tastes great.
But the art district was quiet — I should have made the trek on Saturday instead, when the galleries were open. Even a few of the boutique eateries were closed. So I decided to walk up to the main thoroughfare section of Oak Park. And along the way, my wandering eyes beheld a little gem tucked in between two other shops — Grape Leaves Mediterranean Restaurant. Off went the appetite alarm as I dashed across the street to see what the menu had to entice me. The word of the day after a quick peek was “satisfaction.”
More and more I am finding that these small holes in the wall are where you hit the motherlode when it comes to finding restaurants that pander to an authentic palate. The first person who greeted me only nodded, not a lick of English from her lips. It was not until the younger waitress approached me with a very, very, very thick Middle Eastern accent that I got it. The older person did not speak English and that was just fine because her smile compensated for what she did not say along the way of “Hello, how are you?”
The restaurant is relatively small and can become crowded quickly on days that there are numerous hungry people roaming by and sniffing the aromas wafting through the air. I decided to get a seat by the window so that I could watch people as they passed by along the sidewalk. And because I knew that I was going to photograph the lovely plates of food I had intended to order, natural light was certainly a plus.
Now, you cannot go to a Middle Eastern restaurant and not order some hummus and babbaganoush. Well, you could, but then again you could also bypass going to a Middle Eastern restaurant and go place your feet under a table at McDonalds. So I ordered a hummus and a babbaganoush. There are restaurants that get it right. And there are restaurants that transport you to the Middle East. I swear I was back in Tel Aviv, flies buzzing about, Arabic tossed around, and me complaining in the native tongue about the heat. Talk about appetizing. If I did not order anything else, those two dishes would have sufficed. And to make matters even better, the guava juice was out of this world. Served up without any ice, it hit the spot, spots I did not know I had, and spots that I have yet to discover. My appetite alarm was at the bliss mark after a few swallows of that nectar.
And thinking that the sauteed shrimp dish that was listed under appetizers section of the menu was going to be small, I had ordered it. I have been abroad to countless ethnic countries and have partaken of their dining from their cultural aspect that I should have known the dish was going to come out communal. The plate was entree size and with it being so damn good, I wanted to eat it all to completion. Yet again, I had to apply the breaks so that I did not make a mess of things and an ultimate fool of myself. The sauteed shrimp came buried under vegetables and served over yellow rice. Very good. Ridiculously good. Stupid good. Damn good. All good.
As a courtesy, the waitress asked me if I wanted dessert. And then she laughed. She could see on my face that the mere question was agony considering how much I had eaten without complaint. I probably could have opted for a cup of tea or some baklava. Instead, I opted for the check so that I could walk out without devolving into the usual bumbling village idiot that I become after eating way too much food.
Because of the atmosphere of the restaurant and the cultural way of partaking of Middle Eastern food, it is a great place for a date. Now that I have an “interest” in Washington, DC, I will have to see if there are a few like Middle Eastern restaurants in that area. But Grape Leaves Mediterranean Restaurant is a great place for an outing and one that does not render your wallet empty or your credit card overcharged. Check it out and enjoy. And let me know if the word of the day that pops into your mind after your dining experience is “satisfaction.”