So a few installments of my “restaurants that haven’t been talked about on LTHForum or all that much anywhere else” ago, I wrote about Al-Basha, a middle eastern restaurant in a south suburban strip mall where I found that a menu of familiar favorites was distinguished by unusually fresh and bright flavors, ranking among the best of such things as shawerma, falafel and baba ghanoush that I’ve had lately.
Today, in a change of pace, I present Al Bawadi Mediterranean Grill, a middle eastern restaurant in a south suburban strip mall where I found that a menu of familiar favorites was distinguished by unusually fresh and bright flavors, ranking among the best of such things as shawerma, falafel and baba ghanoush that I’ve had lately.
Actually, credit for finding this one goes to my wife. Yes, I was the one who put us on 87th heading toward Harlem to look for middle eastern, but she was the one who spotted Al Bawadi’s sign and most critically, its promise of “Natural Fire Wood Grilled” meats, and fought her way through vicious traffic to land us in its parking lot.
Al Bawadi is located in a former fast food building, which they are in the process of expanding so that they can have a nonsmoking original building and a separate hookah room. The building looked vaguely Alamo-like, but I couldn’t quite place it, so after our meal I asked our waiter if it had been a Mexican restaurant. He clearly thought I was asking if the meal we had eaten was Mexican food, and, eyes bulging in disbelief and dismay, carefully explained to the astonishingly stupid gringo (who somehow knew baba ghanoush and falafel by name, but apparently believed them to be salsa and chips), that the restaurant was Jordanian-Palestinian. Eventually I got out of him that the building had once been an Arby’s, but I’m not sure I ever convinced him that I hadn’t mistaken his place for Senor Sombrero’s.
It is, let me say, a vast improvement, not only because of the much more pasha-decadent decor (I assume the paisley curtains and pillows are not Arby’s originals) but because the food was simply first-rate throughout. Again, it’s not that anything was anything all that unusual— fattoush salad, hummus and baba ghanoush, falafel, a mixed grill platter with shawerma and kebabs— but it was all really well executed, bright spices, fresh as could be, chicken kebab perfectly cooked and so on. (There are some grilled fish dishes and the like that seem a little beyond the usual.) The only item I hadn’t really seen before was a freebie on the plate of nosh set on our table as we arrived; along with the usual pickled vegetables and some toasted pita, we got a pile of smooshed eggplant mixed with tomato and garlic, lots of garlic. (The precise degree of smooshing was, less than baba ghanoush, but more than a chopped eggplant dish like the Turkish imam biyaldi.) It wasn’t pretty (it sort of looked like brains or something) but it was really good, and I think I just stopped tasting the garlic about 20 minutes ago.
So the Bridgeview area is a big 2 for 2 on middle eastern places selected by pure random chance. It won’t be the last time I explore down there, even if I no longer have a traffic court issue that compels me to visit that part of the world.
Al Bawadi Grill
7216 W. 87th St.