5285 Overland Avenue Suite 102, Kearny Mesa
I had to go to the courthouse to deal with a traffic ticket — nobody's idea of fun — and had just enough time to squeeze in lunch beforehand. I wanted, needed, a good reason to be on Claremont Mesa Boulevard. Hitting up the Yelp app on my phone, it took about 20 seconds to zero in on a safe bet: Tigris Mediterranean Grille. 4-and-a-half stars. Shawarma. Done.
Admittedly, there were warning signs: its location in a cheap shopping center; the metal hand rails guiding you from entrance to cash register, where a girl in a company polo shirt takes your order before sending you to a faux wood table to await food served on plastic trays. Then there's the spelling of "grille" with an "e" at the end, which connotes the sort of metal grating you'd find on a radiator cover, not the kind of grill you'd cook upon.
But those glowing Yelp reviews, a decent beer selection, and the promise of flatbreads cooked in a brick oven conspired to lure me in. The Ballast Point Sculpin would have been nice, but not the best choice when going before a judge, so I stuck with a fountain soda.
I pretty much can't assess a Mediterranean restaurant without talking about any of the various spellings of "shawarma" and "baba ghanoush." Here it was a "shawarma sandwich" and "baba ghanoug," served on and with flat bread, respectively.
The flat bread was aptly named. No flavor, and too thin to have texture. Sort of the saltine cracker of flat breads, but without the salty pizzazz. It served well enough as a vessel for the stringy ghanoug. It tasted fine, and a lot of places serve it stringy, because eggplant was born that way. But at its best, it's not.
I had high hopes for the shawarma because, frankly, I set a pretty low bar. Not low enough, I guess. Tigris's focus on "fresh" ingredients I can appreciate, but hunger alone compelled me to eat the second half of this sandwich. If you’ve ever bought a chicken wrap form an airport kiosk, you might have an idea what I'm talking about.
I looked around the place, and honestly, people were chowing down. The way they were dressed, most of the other customers were on lunch break form nearby office parks. A few I would spot later, rushing through traffic court. I wondered which of these people would have the audacity to log in to Yelp later and submit a five star review.
I looked the place up online to make sure I hadn't again stumbled into a new fast food chain by mistake. I hadn't. This one opened back in December, and is the only one — yet. But it definitely hails from the fast food family tree, and its proprietors would seem to count that as a model for success. Personally, I had a better day at the courthouse.