The number of restaurants located around Emory that I’ve yet to try remains surprisingly high despite their convenient locations. I hear wonderful things about restaurants on Buford, in Midtown, around Buckhead, and all the way up in Duluth or Suwanee so often that I have neglected the ones right under my nose. Friday the 31st just happened to be both a block exam day for me, as well as Chinese New Year. In past years, my friends and I made dumplings at home, but I didn’t have the time or energy to dedicate to preparations and planning this year. Instead, we decided to eat out and see where the night took us afterwards. Asian restaurants, Chinese in particular, were guaranteed to be packed, so we debated between other cuisines. One of my friends wanted Mediterranean food and after some online searching, found Ameer’s Mediterranean Grill. Not only did some of the photos look delicious, but another friend sealed the deal upon discovering a really great Groupon Deal. Although the deal was designed for 4, we took it upon ourselves to split it between the three of us. It consisted of 4 appetizers or salads, 4 entrees, and 4 beverages, all for just $48. We soon found out that the deal did have its limitations, some of which were disclosed by Groupon, and others, not.
It’s no wonder that I hadn’t known about Ameer’s existence before – their street sign is pretty much invisible. I drove right past it, even with my phone’s directions. I looped back around, not an easy task on Briarcliff Rd on Friday night, and inched my way back up the street with my eyes peeled wide open. This time, I spotted it in a small, 3-store complex right beside Waikiki Hawaiian BBQ (now THAT’S an eye-catching place). The complex had a limited number of parking spots in the front and I was lucky enough to enter just as someone was pulling out. Apparently, though, there’s a small parking lot around back, too.
The small restaurant was bustling with both customers ordering to-go and dining in. A lone man took all of the orders and manned the cash register whereas two others did their best with food delivery and table-clearing. There was a decent line at the register when we walked in. My friend, J, volunteered to place our orders and went off to join the line. After 10 minutes, when she hadn’t returned yet, my other friend, L, and I twisted around in our booth to try to see how much longer she had to wait. I was happy to see that J was currently speaking with the cashier. However, neither one looked very happy – J appeared to be arguing with the man about something and he didn’t look swayed. After another minute, J grabbed the menu and came back to the table.
The cashier had told her that since our order of three lamb shanks and one mix grill consisted of two of the most popular menu items, we had to pay an extra $3 for each – so a total of $12.00 more. J had tried to point out to him that we were within the price indicated by the Groupon deal and that the deal had absolutely nothing on it about additional costs for ordering the lamb shank or the mix grill. He remained adamant despite her argument. Needless to say, we were all ruffled up by the situation. We still wanted to try the lamb shank and grill, however, so we chose to comply in the end.
Seriously, though. Is $12 worth the cost of losing 3 potentially returning customers? I guess he thought it was.
J had to go back to the end of the line. 10 minutes later, she finally placed our orders. As we waited for our food to arrive, I noticed that the restaurant appeared to be a BYOB place – several tables went next door to Draft to pick up some booze, while another couple went to Whole Foods for a few bottles of wine. A food-runner/bus boy called out our order number when our appetizers were ready. Our appetizers came with a small basket of piping hot pita. L had selected the baba ganoush, a dip of fire-roasted eggplant, tahini, spices, and herbs. It was nice and creamy, and although it tasted just fine, it didn’t blow my mind. It tasted like a thinner, more exotic hummus. I really wanted to taste the eggplant, the promised spices and herbs, as well as a touch more salt. Not a bad choice, though.
I chose the falafel, described as: “The best around guaranteed! Delicious balls of grounded chickpeas, spices, herbs, deep fried to golden brown.” Truth be told, I’ve been searching for a good falafel place forever. Everyone says that Falafel King, located in Emory Village, has the best falafel. I’ve ordered falafel multiple times there, but every, single, time, the falafel came out burnt and hard – so hard that eating it hurt my mouth. I was really, really hoping that Ameer’s would become my falafel place, but the falafel kind of confused me. I’m not an expert on the dish, but the inside of the falafel here was…well, kind of wet. I prefer a fluffy interior to my falafel, so sadly, these were not the best around in my opinion.
J had originally wanted to order the kebi, but they had run out. She switched to the corn salad, instead, which consisted of “sweet corn, dill, spices, herbs, lemon, and olive oil.” This last-minute choice turned out to be my favorite out of the 4 appetizers we chose. I loved the pop of sweet corn kernels tossed in the light, dill dressing. Super light and refreshing.
We agreed on the foul modamas as our 4th appetizer, which the menu described as “cooked fava beans mixed with garlic, olive oil, parsley, lemon.” I had been expecting a dish of, well, beans, so the bean dip that showed up surprised me. It looked like a refried bean dip upon first glance. Digging in, I found that it tasted nothing like refried beans. I could really taste the lemon, which, combined with the raw onions, gave the dip an acidic, zippy punch.
Moving on to entrees, I first tried the mix grill, described as “skewer of beef, chicken, and kufta kabob grilled to perfection” on the menu. I’m quite sorry we chose to pay an extra $3.00 for this “popular” dish. The beef tasted like medium-well, underseasoned cubes of steak. The chicken had a tasty spice rub, but was a tad dry. I had never tried kufta before, but it had a really interesting spice blend. However, it was too salty. They should rename this dish Goldilock’s grill – too bland, too salty, and just right.
On the other hand, I am so glad to have paid that $3 for the lamb shank. The bone gave the dish great flavor and kept the lamb juicy and succulent. The tender meat and sauce reminded me of a few Italian, braised meat dishes, but with a few different herbs. The sauce tasted lovely and I liked the soft, flavorful chunks of carrot and peppers with which the lamb shank had roasted.
Throughout all of this, our 3 hot teas never arrived. We asked them 3-4 times about it before finally, when we were all done eating, the cashier brought one of them over. We looked at him blankly and asked him about the other two, before he remembered and ran back to get them. I think it’s nice to finish a meal with hot tea, so I didn’t mind too much. I was expecting the hot tea to be some sort of tea bag and hot water. Instead, a few mint leaves were thrown in with the Lipton tea bag. The mint really permeated the tea and I quite enjoyed it.
The plus side of the night was some baklava on the house. J had wanted to order some but remembered only when paying. The cashier was gracious, or fed up, enough to give them to us for free. Interestingly enough, instead of the traditional pistachios, these were made with pecans and walnuts. It made the baklava taste much more robust. As much as I do love pecans and walnuts, I prefer baklava with pistachios, which I find to be more perfumey and light. The best part of the baklava was the pastry on top – it had just enough honey to sweeten it and, most importantly of all, it remained crisp and flaky!! The majority of the baklava I’ve eaten in my life were sodden with syrup and had lost their crunch long, long ago. But not the baklava at Ameer’s. I will definitely order these again.
All in all, the night ended on a high note. Ameer’s has decent food, a couple of really, tasty dishes like the baklava and lamb shank, and is super close to where I live. The service definitely needs working on, but that’s something you wouldn’t have to worry about if you were to order take-out. The BYOB policy means cheaper booze with your meal than if you were to buy your drinks in a restaurant. If you’re nearby and craving Mediterranean food, I say, go for it!
新年快樂 [Happy New Year] everyone!! May the year of the horse bring you luck and good fortune!
Ameer’s Mediterranean Grill
2168 Briarcliff Road
Atlanta, GA 30329