We visited Tabouleh Mediterranean Cafe on Merrill Road in Arlington. It’s in the plaza just West of Wedgefield by the Post Office. Tabouleh is in the back corner of the plaza. When we arrived I was a little bit concerned the place would be jammed, but most of the used parking spaces were clearly for other businesses.
Most of the reviews I’ve read of Tabouleh Mediterranean Cafe are positive so I had fairly high hopes. I usually try to limit what I read about a place before I visit so I don’t end up just echoing what I’ve read, but in this case I did myself a dis-service. While my expectations weren’t unreasonable I ended up having a completely different idea of what the place really is.
Food: We started with Baba Ghannouge ($5.95) and Feta Fries ($2.95).
Baba Ghannouge is not something I usually order but I wasn’t really feeling Hummus on this trip. Any restaurant that makes it’s own Hummus and Baba Ghannouge probably makes their own pitas as well. There are few things better than a well made, warm pita. I really wanted some pitas that wowed me and these were just alright.
The Baba Ghannouge was pretty textbook. This isn’t a complaint, but it didn’t have any wow factor. I certainly ate my fair share of it and the portion size was good.
Feta Fries are exactly as they sound: French Fries with feta cheese. The Fries were nice and crisp. Not much more to say about these other than I wish there was a bit more feta on them. But, for the price I think it’s fair.
We ordered Chicken in a Sack ($6.95) and Steak in a Sack ($7.95) for our meals. Those are very fair prices, especially for dinner. Tabouleh Maditerranean Cafe also offers platters that are priced a bit higher and include rice and salad. On my next trip I’m going to try their kabobs. With both sandwiches we had a Mediterranean Salad. This was the standout of the meal in my opinion. Consisting of chop salad lettuce with tomato, cucumber and red onion on top, the oil and vinegar is pretty great. Really expertly seasoned.
We’ve all experienced the “ingredient island”. You pull the sandwich to your mouth and chomp out a bite only to taste one ingredient and the pita. It’s a let down that could have been avoided by laying out ingredients evenly in the pita. Tabouleh does the nicest job of even ingredient distribution of any pita serving restaurant I’ve ever had the pleasure to try.
With that said, both sandwiches had the same peppers and tahini in them. The meat was nice and hot, clearly the food was brought right to our table when it was ready. And jeeze, what a good value.
Service: I’m going to assume a few things. First, I’m going to assume that Tabouleh is mostly a lunch-type place. I’ll also assume that the gentleman who served us when we visited was the owner. Finally, I’m going to assume that during weekends they have a waitstaff in addition to the owner. On the Wednesday night that we went the entire show was run by this one guy. Maybe there was also a cook in the kitchen, but given how long he disappeared in the back, maybe not. Having one guy do it all was a bit strange. He stopped by and took our order, brought our food out, cleaned up other tables, took payment, welcomed the few new diners, and delivered the food. The service wasn’t bad but it wasn’t exactly a restaurant dining experience. For the price maybe it doesn’t need to be.
Here’s my suggestion: Tabouleh is best for take-out.
Their spinach pies and cheese pies are worth the trip alone. They’re perfectly seasoned. They also sell them in freezer bags to take home. I had the same experience with the owner only doing all the work, but as far as Greek goes in Jax it is top notch.