As long as you haven’t been living under a falafel for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed a trend in the way Americans have been ordering fast food: We still need it quickly, but we also want it to be fresh and exactly how we like it.
You’ve heard of Chipotle, obviously, the most prolific purveyor of the made-to-order quickie meal. But in recent years, other spoon jockeys have followed suit with made-to-order burritos, sushi and even pizza.
Durum Grill, a Turkish grill conveniently located near a handful of other Blue Ash eateries, is serving just what the customer ordered in a similar style. It’s the kind of place that lies somewhere between a food truck and a restaurant. It’s small and unassuming, located in a strip mall, and there are not a whole lot of menu options.
There is no table service. Drinks only come in bottles and cans. And despite of — or maybe even because of — all these things, you know that what you’re getting will be delicious, inexpensive and authentic.
On a recent weekday lunch break with a friend, I decided to take my first stab at making my own Mediterranean creation. There are essentially four options to chose from: a doner kebab ($7-$7.50), gyro ($7.50-$8), shawurma sandwich ($7.50-$8) and platter ($10-$12). Each sandwich or wrap comes filled with vegetables, gyro meat or chicken, and the customer is able to choose the other toppings.
The doner kebab is the smallest option — a pita pocket sandwich — followed by the gyro, wrapped in a little larger pita. The shawurma sandwich is the largest wrap. The platter has all of the guts of the wrap spread out on a plate.
I watched as one of the line workers shaved off heaping handfuls of gyro meat, packing the slices into huge wraps. Admittedly a bit intimidated by the size of the larger wraps on the spectrum, I chose the vegetable doner kebab ($7).
The pita came stuffed with three or four hot falafel balls. The soft-spoken woman working the line looked at me expectantly as I gazed over the rather sizable array of toppings. I chose just about all of them, as one should, which included most of the standards: hummus, lettuce, onion, tomato, feta cheese and tahini.
My dining companion chose what was essentially the manlier version, a vegetable shawurma sandwich ($7.50). It ended up being almost double the size of my doner kebab with almost all of the same toppings. I think that means I messed up.
With both, the vegetables were fresh and crisp. Nothing seemed soggy or wilted. The falafel was warm and flavorful and a nice delicate balance for the cold, crisp toppings.
Knowing the size of the lunch we were already getting ourselves into, we opted not to go for any of the sides. Sides include hummus ($4.50), which is classic and garlicky and smooth — if the hummus in my wrap is to be trusted. They also offer grape leaves ($4), carrot salad ($5), falafel ($4) and chop chicken salad ($7.50).
Knowing the size of my sweet tooth, tacking on an order of baklava ($2-$2.50) wasn’t an issue. The sweet and sticky treats come in two flavors: pistachio and walnut. They were both fantastic and consisted of layers of filo dough and a sugary nut mix.
The pistachio baklava was a dryer, cylindrical shape, while the walnut flavor was a stickier, decadent triangle. I pretended to take half of the dessert to go, but all of it was gone and my fingers were licked clean before I finished parking my car back at work.
Durum Grill was an excellent fast lunch. There was a crowd that moved through the line quickly and thoroughly filled the small group of tables. The price was right. The staff was friendly. The food was fresh and something different.
Next time you’re in the area, pick up a wrap to go and visit Blue Ash’s beautiful new Summit Park just up the street to relax and enjoy some of the last warm days of summer.
GO: 4764 Cornell Road, Blue Ash; CALL: 513-489-4777; INTERNET: facebook.com/durumgrill; Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.