Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Eba's Lounge and Bistro
Pan-Mediterranean restaurant opens in Hillcrest.
Walking into Eba’s (142 University Ave, Hillcrest, 619-269-0123), I was surprised to find that it was a Mediterranean restaurant and not a French place. The purple walls and curlicue decor gave off a sense of Parisian cafe, or at least a romanticized vision of one, but the menu read like another gyros shop; with tabouli, shawerma, falafel, etc.
But Eba’s went way beyond that, by leaps and bounds. It’s hard to capture the warmth and kindness that Eba and Wisam (the cook) extended me. I could not have felt more welcome. They shared the duty of taking my order in a way that was more familial than professional, but I didn’t mind the friendliness because it came off as perfectly natural and not the mock-camaraderie of “cozy” service styles.
I talked about language and transliteration with Eba as I worked my way through an order of lahm bi ajeen ($3), which I’ve always known as “lahmajun.” It’s a simple flatbread topped with spiced, ground beef and lamb. Alongside that, I tried a plate of salads, hummus, and baba ghanouj that I did not order, but which Wisam insisted I had to try anyways.
Wisam and I talked about love and loss after I finished my “chicken cream chop” ($13), which was a peculiar name for a delicious chicken cutlet served with tangy salad and a miraculous barley dish that made the average mushroom risotto pale in comparison. For $10, a Greek pizza came on the same tender flatbread as the lahm bi ajeen, but included olives, tomatoes, and cheese.
After that, I ordered Turkish coffee, strong and laced with cardamom.
Sitting there with my Turkish coffee, talking to the soft-spoken Wisam about the future and the crazy ways the world works, I can honestly say I had one of the coolest and most random dinners ever.
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