If you're hungry and cruising Downtown in search of something different, head straight down Main Street into historic Springfield and look for the brightly colored Wafaa & Mike's Café. (I hear the adjacent auto shop, which shares an owner, is excellent, too.)
Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, the Mediterranean (their sign says "Mid-Eastern") restaurant has been in town for five years. It's a decidedly casual spot, so don't come expecting pressed linens and silver. But it's solid for what it is.
We started with baba ghanoush ($4.99). It was delightfully smoky and creamy, topped with a drizzle of olive oil and paprika, and served with a basket of pita triangles for dipping. The pita was stiff and room temperature, so we asked for fresh, warm pita. Moments later, we were given a new batch.
Platters seemed to be the way to go. Each of the dozen or so platters includes a choice of two side items. I went with the falafel ($10.99), and it was fantastic – freshly crafted chickpea orbs of delight you can dip in the accompanying nutty tahini sauce. My side items were traditional favorites, hummus and tabouli. Both were fresh and excellent. Also on the platter were slices of colorful crunchy pickled turnip, cucumbers and a small bed of iceberg lettuce and tomato. The falafel is also available in wrap form.
Another success was the kibbe – croquette-like football-shaped nuggets of ground meat mixed with minced onions and bulgur wheat.
I didn't care for the grape leaves, which were served cold and had an off-putting spice that I couldn't pinpoint. Skip these.
I wanted to try the Turkish (read: strong) coffee ($1.99), but it was late in the afternoon and our waitress politely steered me away, explaining I probably wouldn't get a good night's rest.
A dollar scores you a crisp, sweet square of happiness – also known as baklava – so keep dessert on your agenda. Wafaa & Mike's does this pastry treat just right.