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Pockets of Flavor

Mediterranean Cafe
Pita Platter: For less than $5, Mediterranean Cafe serves up robust flavors.

Pick a pack of pitas at Mediterranean Cafe

By Andrew X. Pham

AT LAST TALLY, WE DETERMINED that one could dine every day of the month on a different cuisine and still pay around $5 for each meal. Welcome to the South Bay's ethnic fast-food scene. One of our favorite $5 destinations is Mediterranean Cafe in Campbell. This shy little cafe sits in a diminutive strip mall, making little ado with fluorescent lighting, white tiles and clean tables. Food is served on foam plates with plastic utensils. Order, pay and pick up food at the counter.

Every entrée except the roasted half chicken is available a la carte or as a meal platter. Platters are priced $3 to $4 more than a la carte items, and they include rice pilaf, extra pita and hummus. We prefer to go a la carte.

Here's why: shawarma ($4.39), soujouk ($4.99) and sempoogi ($3.99) are big enough to make a meal, especially when coupled with a small green salad ($1.50) or a hummus dip ($3.49 with pita). Known as the "Rich Man's Sandwich," shawarma features roasted beef (or chicken) rolled with seasoned onion, tomato and tahini sauce (a sesame paste), and it packs plenty of flavor for pocket change. But of course soujouk is the all-time pita favorite, with spicy beef sausage, tomato and pickle. Sempoogi is another major hit with its delicious blend of baked eggplant, onion, tomato, bell pepper and garlic, all wrapped in pita brushed with hummus.

Most of the menu rates above average, with only two or three items best avoided. Dolmaties, for example, are too lemony and a little lean in the stuffing department. Also, the falafel, nicknamed "Poor Man's Sandwich," is the least enticing morsel.

This is a good pit stop for picnickers. "Whole chicken to go" goes for $8.99 (serves two). A primo accompaniment is baba ghanoush ($3.99), an eggplant dip infused with a smokiness that's ravishing with pita bread.

Despite its clinical demeanor, the cafe whips up robust flavors, good and inexpensive enough to pencil it in as a regular pit stop.

Mediterranean Cafe is located at 100 W. Hamilton Ave. in Campbell (408/379-9133).

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From the Oct. 23-29, 1997 issue of Metro.

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