There is a new restaurant in the old Taco Lu location on Beach Boulevard called 1001 Nites Mediterranean Grille. A few weeks ago they had us out for a tasting to try their authentic, homemade, freshly prepared Mediterranean food. 1001 Nites doubles as a Hookah Lounge and a full bar as well and clearly has a late night following judging from my drive-bys since I visited. On our never ending foodie quest, our interest was piqued with the offered menu of traditional Mediterranean.
We were greeted at the door by one of the partners in the restaurant and seated. It was early for dinner and we were the only patrons at the time. The restaurant will still have the familiar feel of the former occupants but with some updated pillowy seating for hookah anchored down one wall. It is a little dark inside the restaurant, which I’m sure caters to the late night crowd as well. We opted for several of our favorite Mediterranean dishes to get a full range of 1001 Nites offerings. First up was our appetizer, mantu dumplings ($8.50). I have developed a newfound love of mantu over the past few years and 1001 Nites did not disappoint with their version. Mantu dumplings are steamed pillows of savory ground beef and creamy yogurt. 1001 Nites tops their mantu with tomato and lentils. These were salty, fall apart tender, and so rich. I’ve been craving them nonstop since my visit. The tomato topping stood out particularly because it added acidity to the yogurt. This is a stellar appetizer that we are confident will be a best selling dish. Other available appetizers include hummus, falafel, samosas, and grape leaves, each available a la carte which would make excellent tapas while enjoying the hookah bar.
Our second course was a shish kebab combination platter ($17.50) with marinated beef, rice, grilled vegetables, and a salad. The beef was tender and perfectly charred and clearly freshly prepared. There was a small sauce on the side of the platter that my best description would be like a thin salsa, and it was a delicious accompaniment to the beef. We also loved the grilled vegetables that came with this platter. The grilled tomatoes and red onions were sweet, juicy, and slightly smokey. I could eat those alone without even having the beef, that’s how good they were. The side of rice was tender and well prepared. When I’m eating Mediterranean food I tend to mix everything together, and this platter proved perfect for that. Bites of rice, salad, and beef all balanced well to create a perfect flavor combination. Kebabs are also available in chicken and kofta, or you can opt for a traditional shawarma platter as well.
Our next tasting was a gyro ($9.50) with fresh shaved gyro meat in a massive portion. Truly, this sandwich could feed two people. The thinly sliced gyro meat is piled inside a soft and fluffy pita and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onions and then drizzled with fresh tzatziki. Let us rejoice about pickles on gyros, that will definitely be a thing for me from now on. This is one crazy good sandwich. I abandoned trying to lift it after a few tries (maybe in the privacy of my own home?) and opted for a fork and knife approach which worked just fine. The gyro is served with crinkle cut french fries which I always have an affinity for because they’re better vessels (re: tzatziki). While we were enjoying devouring the gyro, we were also brought a tabouleh salad ($11.50) with crisp finely chopped parsley, cracked wheat, tomatoes, fresh mint, and a heavy dose of lemon and olive oil. Tabouleh is such a refreshing dish, I’d love to see a smaller side available on their menu in the future instead of just entree size. I love how lemony and vibrant their tabouleh is; it’s definitely in my top favorites in Jacksonville.
We were surprised with some sweet baklava ($3.50/two pieces) as our last treat which was a perfect palette cleanser. Layers and layers of phyllo dough were heavily covered in honey and nuts. The texture was wonderful and clearly carefully constructed to make sure each bite contained every ingredient. I love baklava and would definitely order this every time I visit. The food at 1001 Nites is superb. They’re presenting fresh Mediterranean with truly authentic flavors. Combined with their extensive hookah offerings and full bar, it’s definitely a place to relax with friends and stay awhile. We think the combination pull for different demographics of people will add up to success for this new restaurant and we look forward to seeing them grow.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.