On The Hunt, with Greg Barbera
Ours is a community with a voracious appetite. But food comes at a cost. My goal here is to go on a food safari, setting my sights on the delicious and delectable options often overlooked around town. As a single dad of two growing boys, I consider myself a frugal foodie. I like to maximize my investment to get the most out of a dollar. Ten dollars will be my tipping point. The days of the $5 lunch are long gone but I believe there’s still affordable food—be it a sandwich or late night tapas—available to us. Outside of setting my sights on what’s out on the range, I also hope to tap into our other side. The gatherer. Armed with little more than a five-dollar bill, I will visit the area’s farmer’s markets scouring the booths for earthen bounty. I am not a trained chef; every thing I have learned is through observation and experimentation. But I have a will and a way and a limited budget, so let’s go hunting…
On a recent hump day I found myself hot and hungry. I was on West Franklin St. with not much time on my hands and few funds, when I spotted an old favorite—Mediterranean Deli.
Opened by JamilKadoura and his wife in 1992, the deli offers up authentic Mediterranean & Greek food staples like falafel, gyros, souvlaki and babaghannoug. The small deli expanded in 2008 and, more recently, added its own bakery. Good news for the gourmand-challenge: they have vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu.
It had been awhile since I went to Med Deli (as it is affectionately referred to by locals), which is surprising since I have a soft spot for souvlaki. But today wasn’t going to be about souvlaki; today was all about falafel. Falafel—for the uninitiated—is fried, ground chickpeas. Sort of like the Middle Eastern version of the hush puppy but sometimes with a more spreadable texture. My order was served on a fresh, house-baked pita with lettuce, tomato and tahini dressing (made from ground sesame seeds). A complimentary condiments bar allows customers to “spruce-up” their order with olives, peperoncinis, tahini and tzatziki (cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, parsley) sauces and more. This is one of my favorite aspects of Med Deli because some people like it plain and some people like it “with the works.” And this provides options for both of those and every one in between.
My pita was amply stuffed. I added peperoncinis, olives and tzatziki sauce. The warmth of the fried falafel was counterbalanced with the crisp, cold crunch of the lettuce and tomato. It was a light and refreshing meal. Perfect for the hot summer day I was experiencing. Not wanting to stuff myself, I got a to-go box for the other half of the pita and added olives, peperoncinis, tzatziki and tabouli. For a total of $6.50 I got two meals out of my trip. So when someone tells you to try Med Deli, you’ll know it is the real deal and a good deal.