Mediterranean Madness in South Charleston

You know it’s bad when your own father starts wondering if you are ever going to post again.

It’s hard to believe, but South Charleston has seen two Mediterranean-themed restaurants open in the last few months.   Their food is similar, but their styles are not.  Let me start first with the more traditional-looking entry.

Grano — Grano is the latest restaurant to open in the location at 228 7th Avenue in South Charleston.  I can remember a Jamaican place, a Mexican option, and a diner.  The new owners have given the place a very nice and welcoming remodel that is bright and welcoming.  I kept thinking this must be a chain based on the quality of the painting and photography (that is meant as a compliment).  It’s not.  It is the creation of a Syrian-American who recently moved to Charleston and his Syrian/Italian partner.  The menu contains middle east favorites and classic pasta dishes.

I decided to go with a middle east meal of falafel (fried balls of ground chick peas) and a gyro.  The falafel looked homemade as the balls were not consistent in shape and were very light and airy.   I took a picture, but mainly got the garnish, sorry. The gyro was good, if unspectacular, and the accompanying fries were clearly food service.  But you aren’t going to a Mediterranean Italian restaurant for the fries.  I did grab a dessert of creme caramel that was very nice and not overly sweet.

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B&A Market — B&A is less of a restaurant and more of a lunch counter located in a middle-east themed market.  You can find it at 4835 MacCorkle Ave. SW, which is going to be a bit of a problem as that is a very busy highway.  The lunch counter serves the traditional middle east sandwiches (shawarma, kabob, gyros) with the usual salads (tabouli, hummus).   Some colleague of mine found it and were very distressed and/or smug that I had not been, so I had to remedy the situation.  They raved about the gyros, hummus, and tabouli (fresh made per order) plus the classic desserts.  Really sorry it took me so long to get there.

While there I ran into a friend who had heard the same raves the night before and had been chowing down on the desserts.  They were out of tabouli –they had forgotten to soak the bulgar wheat in bottled water — so we both went with greek salads that exploded in color.

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Lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, olives and two blocks of feta cheese.  These were meals in themselves, and just 5 bucks, but we still had our wraps.  My friend got the lamb kabob while I chose beef shawarma.

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That’s perfectly spiced beef, onion, tomatoes, middle eastern pickles (not too heavy) and turnips that are slightly pickled in beet juice.  Absolutely delicious.  You can skip the turnips if you want, but I would get them; they added a little crunch to the wrap.  The owner sent us off with homemade desserts (baklava and two baklava cousins that should be equally famous) that were more nutty (pistachios) than sweet.  That’s a good thing, but be warned.

In comparing the two, Grano offers the more classic restaurant experience.  It’s a sit-down to be served place with a hostess and a broader menu (pastas, salmon, and a burger).  It would be a great place to bring someone to introduce them to the joys of Mediterrean food.

But, if you already know you like the stuff, go to B&A.  The menu goes deeper into a pure middle east offering, the price is a little cheaper (you pay for atmosphere), and I thought the food was a little bit better.

But go to one or the other, if not both.  I love that the Valley is expanding its food options and both of these places are solid.

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