Walking into Mediterranean Deli, Bakery and Catering in Park Place might be a little overwhelming. The deli cases are filled with rows of colorful dishes and the signs describe unfamiliar items to most people - like fatayer and grape leaves.
Owner Jamil Kadoura said he thinks some Elon University students will know this middle eastern cuisine from food carts they've seen on northern city streets. He bases this off the fact that Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York are in the top five most represented states for Elon undergraduate students, according to the 2017 Registrar's report. Kadoura actually got his start in cooking at a falafel cart himself, helping while he was growing up.
Kadoura said this food is at the core of his cultural roots, and he’s excited to bring Middle Eastern culture and homemade dishes to Elon.
“Everything is made here, 100 percent,” Kadoura said. “When I come here and I make my own food, I celebrate my culture everyday.”
When Kadoura says everything is made there, he means it. Fresh pitas pop out of the oven like magic, and the smoothie bowls are made to order. The tzatziki sauce, along with other complimentary condiments, are also replenished fresh throughout the day.
For those who haven't gotten to try the food at the Mediterranean Deli's Chapel Hill location, here are some tried-and-true suggestions:
- The lamb fatayer is an open-faced meat pie with feta and tomatoes, baked fresh in a fire-burning oven
- The falafel pita is a classic dish in mediterranean cuisine, and a favorite among customers, according to Kadoura. Leo Lambert even had this for his last lunch as president of Elon!
- The roasted cauliflower is an underestimated favorite, with great seasoning and a lemony bite. You could eat it like candy.
- The newest addition to the menu, the açai bowls are a beautiful way to start your day with fresh fruits, and even vegetables! Kadoura's favorite (and I agree) is the green bowl. The smoothie part is made with kale, pineapple, lemon, and ginger, and topped with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, granola and honey.
- The cucumber salad is simple, but delicious with red onions and a vinaigrette. There are several other salads, and even if you wouldn't normally order something like it, I dare you to try it.
- End on a sweet note with the fresh baklava or the cookie cheesecake.
The restaurant is in its trial period during the first week, according to Kadoura. The owner and his staff are still adjusting to the new location and community, contributing to a longer wait time and 15 items left off the menu. Still, students said they didn't mind waiting for good food.
"It has great variety," said senior Monica Austin. "I'm very excited about it, I'm going to be here a lot."
Mediterranean Deli, Bakery and Catering is open 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. every day. Their full menu can be found here.