The Place: Sahara Cafe & Mediterranean Foods, 1121 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 954-1423.
The Fare: I was in a vegetarian mood, and since Middle Eastern cuisines offer some of the tastiest no-meat options around I headed for Sahara Cafe to score some takeout.
The Drill: Order at the counter and browse the shelves of staples like fava beans, grape leaves ready to stuff and Lebanese wild cucumber pickles while your order is prepared.
The Bottom Line: You’ll find plenty of meat lover options here, too, like gyros in yogurty tzatziki sauce or grilled chicken served nine different ways, but only veggies and grains were on my radar. I chose two loaded platters, both very well priced at $7.69, including two side dishes and pita bread. The falafel platter was the star of the show, the plump patties of ground chickpeas and Middle Eastern spices satisfyingly crunchy. Almost as good was the stuffed grape leaves platter, the tangy leaves wrapped around a lightly lemony stuffing of rice and spices. Along for the ride came a rich and velvety hummus, a baba ghanoush nearly chunky with eggplant, a nice Greek salad with feta, and a refreshing tabouleh salad of bulgur wheat and chopped tomatoes coolly seasoned with parsley, mint, lemon juice and olive oil. All in all, just the sort of light and lively warm weather fare we all crave at this time of year.
An editor, writer and online publisher, John Bancroft has reviewed restaurants, books, movies and music for many magazines, websites and newspapers, most recently for the St. Petersburg Times.