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Eat Feature

Middle Eastern

Posted 3/4/2009

Amer's Café

7624 Belair Road, Belair Beltway Plaza, Nottingham, (410) 668-5100, amerscafe.com, $-$$

Amer's Café offers great Mediterranean/Egyptian food served in a warm family-friendly atmosphere. Family run and overflowing with personality, it serves up some of the best wood-oven pizza in the area. Try Amer's specialty pizza with pesto sauce and fresh- roasted vegetables. The dips (hummus, foul, or baba ganouj), served with Amer's out-of-this-world homemade pita, are a great excuse to spoil your supper. Go for the great food and eat slowly for the belly dancers, who appear on Friday and Saturday nights.

Baba's Mediterranean Kitchen

745 E. Fort Ave., (410) 727-7482, babaskitchen.net, $

Baba's may offer caprese salad and Italian-style pita pizzas, but the majority of food here is Middle Eastern: creamy, smoky baba ganouj, and fragrantly spicy kafta/beef burgers. The handsome Locust Point storefront is small to be sure, and carry-out business is heavy, but if you've been making due with hummus and dolmades from Trader Joe's (and even if you haven't), Farid Salloum's food will be a revelation, and an inexpensive one at that. BYOB.

The Desert Café

1605 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 367 5808, thedesertcafe.com, $-$$

This charming little Middle Eastern restaurant features friendly service and affordable food with an intimate atmosphere. The entrees haven't blown us away, but there are so many good appetizers--hummus, baba ganouj, dolmades, falafel, plus soups and salads--it's easy to order two or three of them and call it a meal. For dessert, you can go with the Desert's chocolate or cheese cakes, but it's worth taking a stroll to the créperie next door.

The Helmand

806 N. Charles St., (410) 752-0311, helmand.com, $$

Seriously, is there a more perfect restaurant than the Helmand? This Afghan restaurant has it all: delicious fare whether or not you eat meat, an atmosphere romantic enough for a date, but comfortable enough for a pre-night-out dinner with friends, and prices that mean you never have to wait for a special occasion to pull up a chair. The menu is full of delicacies, but we rarely get further than the smooth and savory vegetarian aushak and some of the perfect pumpkin appetizer.

Lebanese Taverna

719 S. President St., (410) 244-5533, lebanesetaverna.com, $$-$$$

One of Baltimore's prettiest dining rooms, Lebanese Taverna's food belies the fact that the restaurant is a regional chain. Entrees like sharhat ghanam (grilled lamb loin) please, but we prefer ordering classics like chicken shawarma, kibbeh, lebneh, and hummus bel foole as small plates to share.

Orchard Market and Café

8815 Orchard Tree Lane, Towson, (410) 339-7700, orchardmarketandcafe.com, $$

Tucked away near the rear of an unpromising-looking suburban strip mall lies fine Persian cuisine. The dining room is surprisingly pleasant and date-ready, given the storefront space, but the food needs no qualifying: flavorful Persian stews and hearty grilled kabob favorites, augmented by both Middle Eastern standards and the occasional updated touch. Try the savory grilled koobiedeh or anything in the traditional walnut-pomegranate sauce.

Zachi Café and Gourmet Market

237-239 W. Read St., (410) 462-6200, $

This Middle Eastern café is a recent addition to the Mount Vernon foodscape, and seems to be developing a regular lunch crowd. The room is bright and decorated with warm colors and modern tables, and service is prompt. The sandwiches, which feature typical Middle Eastern flavors of falafel, kofta, olive, cucumber, chick pea, and tomato, are served in two small, well-stuffed pitas, and come with a side of chips. Zachi also serves delicious homemade pastries and baked goods--anything with walnuts and honey works for us--and good coffee, too.

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