Downtown Toledo eatery nails it with consistency.
It might not be the sexiest word in the culinary world, but it's an honest one when it comes to Lazeez' Mediterranean Cuisine on North St. Clair Street in downtown Toledo.
In a city that boasts a sizable Middle Eastern population there is a plethora of eatery options for Middle Eastern cuisine. The Beirut. Byblos. Tiger Bakery. Ranya's.
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In the world of gastronomy, Lazeez holds its own in the competition.
★ ★ ★
Address: 337 N. St. Clair St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $
Credit Cards: MC, V.
Web site: lazeezeatery.com
They start out strong with a diverse menu with numerous fresh ethnic offerings, including hummus and baba ghanoush (both are $3.50/small; $5/large), falafel and gyro wraps ($6.99), and fattoush salad ($2.99/small; $4.99/large).
All are punchy with flavor. All are consistently good. Every time. (I'm a regular).
The friendly employee who took my order recently said the most popular item on the menu is the chicken schawarma wrap.
It might be the most ordered-entree, but I'm going to let it take a back seat to what I think is the best item on the menu — the baba ghanoush. With just enough lemon and salt to complement the roasted eggplant, it wins over even the hummus (if you tear me away from hummus for anything, you've won). Both are made fresh at the restaurant every two or three days, I was told.
Almost everything at the restaurant is made on site —from the lentil soup to the addictive garlic sauce that is served on the side. One of my companions raved over the spinach pie and the falafel, which she said was made exactly as it should be — crispy outside and fluffy inside. One a separate visit, a companion was indifferent to the falafel, saying that it lacked flavor, but was impressed with the fresh, crispness of the Greek salad.
I had the fattoush salad, and it gets the same grade.
I wasn't as affected as my companion by the spinach pie, which I found a bit on the lemony side (my friend begged to differ). That same issue of potential sumac overload translated into delicious in the restaurant's lentil soup. It is served thick and hot and could be a meal in itself.
Let's talk about chicken shall we? The Chicken Schawarma wrap ($6.99), boosted with a fresh pita and the tangy garlic sauce, gets an A-minus. The chicken schawarma plate ($9.99) gets a B-minus — the shaved meat that was a little on the dry side just wasn't enough to win us over.
But the chicken kabobs? A-plus. When you can get chicken that moist, consistently (there's that word again) why ruin a good thing?
Logistically, the restaurant is pleasant enough. They display their food in a case in front, and the walls and tables are a serene aqua blue-green with yellow accents. Melodic music was playing in the background. Staff members are friendly and helpful, although there is no wait staff — orders are called out by number and you pick them up yourself.
The Lazeez plate includes two pieces of falafal, two veggie grape leaves, hummus, baba gannouch, pita bread and a side of soup or salad.
Even with the knowledge that a good chunk of Lazeez' business is takeout and delivery, we were none too impressed with the styrofoam dishes that everything is served on inside the restaurant, down to the soup. The thought of warm food eating into the bowl wasn't the most pleasant thought we had during our meals there. At least the plates were divided into compartments so that hot food stayed that way, and vice-versa for the cold eats.
If you want to do a little homework online before you go, make sure you bring your patience. Lazeez' Web site (lazeezeatery.com) is a work in progress (I hope), with a few lines about the restaurant, a pdf of its menu that's hard to read, and some photographs of the food.
Lazeez is only open until 5 p.m., and does not serve alcohol. If it's ever an option, I hope Lazeez considers extending its hours into the evening. A little Lebanese wine or beer to complement the lentil soup and baba ghanoush and now we've got a party.
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Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants. The Blade pays for critics' meals.