A while back, I came across a place called Noura Cafe on Instagram. It’s a little cafe at the end of University near San Jose that does Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. And on Instagram the food looked amazing, so we recently decided to stop by and check it out.
Noura Cafe is home not only to an eatery, but also to a fairly decent selection of Middle Eastern groceries. There are grocery shelves line the right wall, leading to the back where you’ll find a couple of refrigerated cases and also the counter where you order. There are a lot of tables in this little cafe. Given their location, their reasonable prices, and their takeout-friendly menu, I would imagine that Noura Cafe does quite a bit of business at lunchtime and that a lot of it is take out. I’d be interested to see if they actually put all those tables to use on a regular basis.
The decor is pretty nondescript and no-frills, that is until you notice the dated forest mural and built-in decorative money tree. Yep…a money tree that appears to be growing out of the floor in the front left corner of the cafe. It is adorned with faux greenery, decorative birds, and quite a few dollar bills. It was definitely a unique, albeit odd, decorative feature. Otherwise, the interior is sort of plain and a little bit dated.
We stopped by Noura Cafe on a Saturday around dinner time and were one of only a couple of groups there at the time. We grabbed some menus at the counter and had a seat so that we could decide what we wanted. Aside from the kitchen staff in the back, there was only one person (the owner, I think) there doing everything else. This proved to be a little awkward when we went back up to order since he seemed a bit flustered as he juggled quite a few tasks at once…ringing up other customers, answering the phone, taking our order, and eating his own dinner at a table nearby. He jotted down what we wanted and hollered our order through the doorway into the kitchen. We grabbed a couple of bottled waters out of the cooler and had a seat to wait. And wait. The food took a little bit longer than we would have liked. And the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen didn’t make waiting any easier. Luckily, between the forest mural, the money tree, and the shelves of international groceries, there was enough to look at that the kiddos didn’t get TOO restless. And we were pleased to find out that the food was worth the wait.
We ordered a couple of sandwiches as entrees – a Falafel, Tabbouleh & Hummus Pita Sandwich and a Chicken in a Sack. We also ordered a Meat Pie and a Cheese Pie. And we just had to try the hummus. Our kids love hummus (as do we) so we couldn’t pass it up. Now just a word about presentation. Usually we aren’t too picky about plating and presentation; if the food tastes good, that’s what matters most. But I must admit I was a little disappointed when our food was brought out on styrofoam plates. On the Noura Cafe Instagram feed, their food is shown beautifully plated on charming rustic dishes. So when our food was brought over on flimsy styrofoam, it was a bit of a bummer and not really what their photos had advertised.
Despite the styrofoam, my hubby dug right into his Falafel, Tabbouleh & Hummus Pita Sandwich ($6.99). It was great and really packed a lot of our favorite things into one very tasty sandwich. The falafels were just perfect – seasoned well and fried to golden deliciousness. These were possibly some of the best falafels we’ve had in town. Add to that some amazingly fresh and vibrant tabbouleh and some good classic hummus and it really couldn’t get much better.
My Chicken in a Sack ($6.85) on the other hand, was just ok – not the best I’ve ever had, but not bad either. It had lots of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and chicken smothered in gooey molten hot cheese. The flavor was pretty good, but the texture of the chicken was sort of “off” somehow. It was really fatty, but also kind of tough and chewy at the same time. The texture wasn’t very appetizing, so that was a drawback. But the flavor overall was decent. That being said, I’d probably skip this on my next visit.
The meat and cheese pies were definitely a big hit. The kids loved the Cheese Pie ($3.45) and all its tangy cheesy goodness. The cheeses blended together perfectly in this golden brown pie and the kids polished it off in no time and even asked for another one! We grownups enjoyed the cheese pie, but really loved the Meat Pie ($3.45) the most. Oh my goodness that meat pie. Inside this toasty golden pie was perfectly spiced ground beef and finely chopped onion and tomato. The seasoning was amazing and this pie was packed with flavor. This would make a great meal on its own along with some hummus.
And speaking of which…to accompany our sandwiches and pies, we chose a side of Hummus ($4.25) and it was so, so good. This was a classic, no-frills hummus done really well. The texture was great – not too chunky, but not too thin and watery either. And it was so simply and beautifully seasoned. Some places try to dress up hummus too much with extra flavors and accouterments, and sometimes that’s ok. But really good classic, simply made hummus can be though to find. Lucky for us we found it. The hummus at Noura Cafe is some of the best I’ve had. And the warm, soft pitas served with it were the perfect vehicle for all that hummus yumminess.
There were some hits and misses at Noura Cafe. Sure, the decor is a little quirky and odd and the service was slightly awkward. But the food made up for the few drawbacks – especially those pies and that hummus. Overall, the food is great. And there are plenty of affordable, tasty options for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. But if you go for nothing else, get the hummus and a meat pie. And some falafels. And some tabbouleh. Ok, so you may have to go more than once to experience all of this great food. Really, you won’t want to miss out on any of this Middle Eastern deliciousness.
For this review we welcome a member of the JRR family: Rhonda Kovar grew up in the heart of North Carolina before moving to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies. You can follow her on Instagram.