Friday, January 15, 2010

Nabeel's Cafe' & Market

Homewood, AL
$10-$25 Entrees

Nabeel's, located in Homewood, AL, describes itself as "a European cafe' and taverna." A small market is attached to the restaurant, featuring Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Russian goods. Nabeel's was started by a husband and wife, who were Greek and Italian, respectively.

My husband is Lebanese on his father's side. Since marrying him and subsequently becoming interested in Lebanese food, I have found it to be extremely similar to Greek. My husband is as American as Kentucky Fried Chicken and knows next to nothing of the wonders of stuffed grape leaves and hummus. I can go to Nabeel's both to find delicacies such as these and to expose him to his ancestors' culture. He repays me by ordering the cheese steak (Nabeel's does offer a few "Americanesque" entrees for more conventional eaters).

Nabeel's has an old-fashioned, quaint atmosphere. It is a casual, "cozy" restaurant, while still maintaining a hint of elegance. The booths are made for thin people. I can fit quite easily, but my grandmother had to literally be pried out of her seat after finishing her lunch (luckily our waitress was patient, gracious and physically strong). My grandmother always declines cream and sugar with the excellent coffee served at Nabeel's, exclaiming, "I'm sweet and fat enough." If you are like her, choose a table rather than a booth. That way, you will avoid having to call in the Jaws of Life.

The ingredients sold in Nabeel's market are often used in the dishes prepared for their restaurant customers. The small, Greek house salad has a slightly sweet, vinegar-based dressing, which is also sold by the bottle. Each salad comes with sliced, Italian bread. Nabeel's lentil soup is wholesome and may be served with oil and vinegar at one's request.

Nabeel's is justly famous for their bechamel sauce, which I enjoy, particularly because I have found it impossible to replicate at home. The bechamel sauce is featured in their piece d'resistance (in my humble opinion), the Moussaka, among a few other dishes. The Shrimp Agean is savory and surprisingly filling, as they do not skimp on the warmed feta. The tzatziki is crisp and the sweet mint tea, refreshing. An added bonus: although rich, most of their selections are relatively healthy, as many are prepared with olive oil.

Nabeel's features excellent, original, lunch and dinner specials. One of the most interesting I've had is the roasted quail. Both the specials and the regular menu items are invariably reasonably priced.

Do not forget to order dessert. The baklava is outstanding (made with walnuts, not pistachios), and the tiramisu ... well, you know how I feel about tiramisu.

4 Kudzu

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