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Published: Thursday, 9/29/2005

Restaurant review: Tiger Lebanese Bakery-Deli ***

You won't find Tiger Lebanese Bakery in the Yellow Pages under Restaurants, but that doesn't mean you can't get a good meal there at a very good price.

Actually, there are two Tiger Bakeries, the original on Monroe Street and a newer one, a bakery-deli, at West Central Avenue and McCord Road in Sylvania. Both welcome visitors with the tempting aromas of Mediterranean spices, oils, and powders.

Inside are shelves bearing such Mideast groceries as chickpeas, tahini sauce, dried lemons, tins of olive oil, crunchy pita chips in a rainbow of flavors, and a large selection of honey-sweet baklava.

But most important from Bill of Fare's standpoint, Tiger Bakery-Deli also makes and serves homemade Lebanese food, by the sandwich or the pound. Among the choices are stuffed grape leaves, hummus, fava bean salad, baba ghanoush (eggplant), sauces, shish kabobs, chicken and vegetables, and beef wraps.

At the West Central store one day, I counted 18 meat and vegetable dishes available for eating on the premises or taking home, all in the $2 to $6 price range. On a later visit, the choices had ballooned to around 40, including many varieties of fatayer - meat and vegetable pies ($1.69 each) - plus sandwiches ($3.49), shish kabobs ($1.99), dips, olives, salads, rice pudding, Greek and French feta cheese, fatoosh, and kafta.

Truth be told, Tiger Bakery-Deli has become more a deli than a bakery. A Tiger server lamented that the owners, in business since 1971, stopped making their own bread and pastries four or five years ago, relying instead on breads and baklava from Canada.

Still, you can't beat Tiger's homemade fare. For this review I focused on the West Central location, an attractive strip-mall storefront with Arabic-style archways painted in yellow and red. Eight tables in the small diningroom are bathed in light from the front windows. The utensils are plastic, and the food that needs warming gets nuked in a microwave behind the counter. And of course, everything can be ordered to go.

Amid the dizzying array of food, several dishes struck our fancy, beginning with kaftam ($3.49), a tasty beef roll ensconced in a pita wrap slathered with cucumber-based dressing and diced vegetables. Skewers of grilled tawook chicken come both mild and spicy at $1.99 each, and grape leaves ($6.79 a pound), although a bit mushy compared to others around town, can be ordered with either meat or vegetables.

Also recommended is a delicious feta pasta salad ($4.95 a pound), a mix of rotini, feta, parsley, and oil. Also memorable were casserole-style dajjaj with chicken and vegetables; lubia, green beans seasoned with spices; spinach and rice, and chicken and rice. All were served warm and featured saucy variations of green pepper, onions, and tomatoes, and all are priced at $4.95 a pound.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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