Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fattoush Café

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Fattoush Café
1716 Charlotte Ave.

There are several bustling Greek-Mediterranean lunch spots in Nashville. They specialize in tasty food and fast service. Fattoush Café is certainly all of that, and while it’s not the best Mediterranean in town, it rises above many. It’s in an unassuming storefront just west of downtown. At 11:30 a.m. there are 25 customers in line and just two hard working people behind the counter. Luckily they buzz through cooking, plating and cash register, and still manage a smile for the regulars. The knives are out and the meat is flying off the Gyro broilers and then on to the grill for a quick chop and sizzle. At 11:45 the line is up to 40 people. The food starts to slow, but the grins are still there, and the staff plows through the lunch rush like restaurant warriors.

We’ve been to Fattoush a few times in the evening, when it’s pretty slow and laid back, so it was good to see the reality of lunch. I order the Fattoush sampler and take my place for a wait. This probably wasn’t such a great idea considering the crowd and the complexity of the sampler. I waited about 15 minutes. I didn’t mind. It was kind of fun watching them work through the crunch.

The Falafel is very good: a crunchy fry on the outside and moist chickpea inside. The Stuffed Grape Leaves are less successful. You hope for a firm chew to dolma. A bite reveals a mushy and non-descript rice mixture, which on the menu includes oregano and lemon, but not so much on the plate. I noticed the Kibbeh Maquliah coming straight out of the freezer and into the fryer, so I was a bit worried. It came out a reasonably crisp cracked wheat shell with a mild meat and onion filling. The Hummus is tangy and despite the rush they still manage to put on a few garnish details. They also take care to serve up fluffy Turmeric rice and fresh, hot Pita.

The rest of the Fattoush menu includes the Middle Eastern version of the Gyro: the beef Shawerma. They have beef and lamb and chicken Gyros; Meltizanes Mousaka, which is eggplant and ground beef in a tomato sauce; lentil soup; and Baba Ghannouj. A couple of off the wall options include Fajitas and Cheese Sticks, although I suppose the cheese stick is Mediterranean in some respect.

I’m not sure if the Baklava usually comes with the Fattoush sampler or if they gave me a slice out of pity for my wait. Either way it was a sweet way to end a lunch. It’s a little heavy on the honey, which saturates the phyllo. Still a nice touch and overall a good meal that hit the spot.

I paid $12.43 with tax and a drink, although most of the items are in the $7 to $8 range.
Fattoush Cafe on Urbanspoon


Logan said...

"and while it’s not the best Mediterranean in town"...So, what is? Out of curiosity, not disagreement.

Eric and Katie said...

Fair enough...I would say Kalamatas in Green Hills has a level of quality and an originality that sets it apart from most.For Middle Eastern I'd have to go with Genie's Persian in Brentwood. I've been trying to differentiate between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, although with many countries cross over. I only recently started a Mediterranean tag, with Anatolia. Now, there may be some more secret gems out there...please let us know. We're always up for a new adventure. There are also several Mediterranean places we have been but not reviewed yet.

BP said...

Yep. This place is pretty solid. It's near my work, so I find myself there for lunch quite a bit. Like you said, it's nothing that's going to blow your mind, but it's consistently fresh and tasty.

I don't think I've experienced enough Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine (nor do I know enough about it) to make a proclaimation for which place is the best. I like Kalamata's a lot and I like Anatolia a lot. That Kebab place on Thompson Lane is pretty good. Same for the one on White Bridge Rd. And the really fancy one on Nolensville Road - Parisa's - that one is awesome.

Eric and Katie said...

bp: best is always a tough assesment. I do think Nashville has a long way to go in the Mediterranean department. Coming from Milwaukee, which isn't a lot larger than Nashville, we had three or four really good Middle Eastern places and several really good Mediterranean joints. One thing we didn't get much of was great Persian, so we have enjoyed Genie's. We really need to get down to Parisa's...we have heard great things.

logan said...

I went to Kalamatas once and was a bit let down by the cuisine. While I understand the concept is much different than your typical sit-down, my gyro and salad were pretty forgettable. Granted that is my one and only visit and I'm sort of comparing apples to oranges in terms of concept and focus, but still. I would go there for lighter more convenient fare though. I've frequented Tabouli's multiple times during my years at Belmont, mostly out of convenience, and while it is far from consistent I've typically been pretty pleased with my food. I don't typically like to see menus with such ranging varieties of food, but when I find what I like on a menu I regrettably tend to overlook the rest. I've been meaning to try the kabob places for years, but have yet to make it. A former roommate swore by Fattoush, but he frequented the McDonald's dollar menu at least once a day so I never considered him the wisest of sources.

katidid83 said...

I consider myself a bit of a Mediterranean/Greek connoisseur, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with your Kalamata's distinction as best in town. Kalamata's in both Green Hills and Brentwood leave a lot to be desired. Their tabouli is a sad, sloppy, soggy state of affairs that reminds me more of salsa than of the salad it is supposed to resemble. The hummus is a weak, tasteless pile of mush and the pitas to go with it are hard and old.

Fattoush, on the other hand, is stellar. Maybe not at getting your food in a timely manner, and maybe it's a bit overpriced, but on quality, it cannot be beat. The tabouli is always light and fluffy. The falafel is made to order, and the hummus is hands down the best in town. There is nothing in the world quite like a pile of Fattoush hummus and hot, fresh pita to go with it.

I have yet to try Anatolia, but I need to.

Thanks for sharing my enthusiasm for good, ethnic food in Nashville! :)