To Mediterranean diet freaks, the phrase “extra-virgin olive oil” means more than the obvious sexual preferences of Popeye's girlfriend. Olive oil is a major ingredient in this totally healthful cuisine—it's rich in antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids, and it's been shown to protect against ulcers and certain types of cancers. Add fish, poultry and colored vegetables (the greener the better), and Mediterranean food charts a course all its own, just like it has for hundreds of years among those who hawk food for its medicinal value.
Enter the Lebanese, who centuries ago ramped up Mediterranean eats with the addition of Eastern spices. Kefta, hummus, fava beans, grape leaves, garlic chicken and a million dishes more: Lebanon is the creative center for tangy American favorites like these—and if you want proof without shelling out plane fare to the Middle East, Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli is the place to go. This North Park eatery doesn't look like much from the outside—but at $7.49, the outstanding falafel plate (with its six patties and abundant vegetables) will relegate the threadbare exterior unto obscurity. Complimentary pitas underscore the extremely fast service, and there's a cute little patio for unwinding onsite. The buzz is that the 'hood's Middle Eastern natives vouch for the authenticity behind the aromas and tastes.
Now it's up to you. You can either go to 4237 Alabama St. Mondays through Fridays between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. or Saturdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (the number is 619-688-0717) or miss out on a little bit of culinary history. The Lebanese have been busy garnishing Mediterranean fare for a while now, but you'll only need a few satisfying minutes to sample their expertise.