Five months ago, Iranian-born Abdul Amir Fealzadeh bought Diner on Elm, renamed it Marrakech Café (801 Elm St., Downtown, 513-421-0049) and created a tasty, affordable downtown lunch and dinner alternative.
Diners immediately feel welcome in the new café. People relax at the counter and chat with the staff or sit at the tables and chat with each other in a dining room infused with orange and red tones suggestive of a distant land and culture.
The staff is in constant motion, checking to make sure customers have everything they need and are enjoying the food. And while the menu includes several dishes of Fealzadeh's second home country (he has, after all, lived in the states for 35 years) like cheeseburgers ($4.49) and a fish sandwich ($4.99), the real reason to go to Marrakech Café is for the Mediterranean/Moroccan fare. Along with the gyros ($5.99), a Greek salad ($7.99) and kabobs ($5.99-$8.99), Fealzadeh says his best dish is the Lamb Tagine ($12.99). But order early or you might be out of luck — the Moroccan lamb dish, stewed with cinnamon, cumin, coriander and turmeric and served over rice, goes fast.
The day I had lunch with a former coworker we had the Falafel Wrap ($4.99) with fries and the Mixed Grill Kabob with brown rice and grilled vegetables ($10.99). I've only run across pickles on a falafel sandwich at one other place in town (Andy's Mediterranean Grille, when it was still a convenience store selling falafels from the back deli), but Fealzadeh assured me that pickles are a common ingredient where he comes from. If you haven't tried this on a falafel, let me tell you — you're missing out. Fealzadeh is emphatic, however, that you must only put three pickle slices on a falafel wrap — otherwise the vinegary treat overwhelms the other flavors.
My mixed grill was seductively delicious. The dish comes with seasoned chunks of chicken, koofta (ground beef marinated in cumin, garlic, onions, parsley and paprika), brown rice and sautéed vegetables and unfolds into an earthy sensation with a delicate garlic undertone.
Fealzadeh's simple yet subtly exotic food has definitely found a new home in my stomach! Grade: A
CONTACT LORA ARDUSER: larduser(at)citybeat.com