We know. It’s hot. It’s summer in Oklahoma. Cool down by sampling cocktails that local bars and restaurants have concocted just for you. Find a nice, air conditioned space or a shaded patio and while away the hours drinking the flavors of summer. You might decide it’s not that bad after all.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Lauren Hamilton
There are a wealth of new local eateries cropping up in the metro and even more coming. If they’re not on your radar, they should be. From the comfy atmosphere at The Barrel on Western Avenue to the laid-back vibe at the Plaza District’s coffee shop, you might find a new regular hangout.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
343 S. Blackwelder, Edmond
WHAT NEEDS WORK: More signage is needed to find the place.
THE TIP: After eating there once, you may be tempted to have a longtime affair with fresh food from the Middle East.
Before moving here from Atlanta more than 30 years ago, my notion of Oklahoma food was barbecue, chicken-fried steak and people trotting around in cowboy boots. Over the years, I learned that, yes, barbecue and chicken-fried steak are popular, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. These days, it’s awfully fun to be a foodie in this town.
Simply Falafel, like the name suggests, is a Mediterranean spot with an informal atmosphere in suburban Edmond that debuted in December. It attracts not only students from the nearby University of Central Oklahoma, but business people in the area, too. Simply Falafel puts out the kind of food that you may not get at home, taking you on a culinary trip to the Mediterranean and Middle East. But finding the restaurant can also be a bit of a trip. The location itself is a bit tricky, but once you find it, you won’t forget. Set your GPS to the Target at Bryant and Second and look to the west.
Inside, it is quite bright and cheerful, with expansive windows, mint green paint on one wall and a soft melon color on another. The soothingly gentle decor is a far cry from the screaming reds and bright yellow in others.
Before considering main dishes, server Alaina Martin helped us zone in on the meza ($12), a sample platter of three choices from the starter list. Mezes (Greek for appetizer) are small dishes served all over the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Diving into the first course, it was the restaurant’s “famous” golden brown falafel patties (deepfried croquettes made with highly spiced chickpeas). Falafel often can be stodgy little bites, but these were very satisfying. Next, we dug into the button mushrooms that had been marinated with cardamom and further highlighted with a hint of garlic, assorted spices and red wine vinegar.
The custardy baba ghanoush, which is pureed eggplant, was so good. It had been mashed with tahini, a thick paste made from sesame seeds, with added lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and pomegranate seeds and molasses, all with triangles of warm pita bread.
Finally, we finished up with an order of hummus ($4), which was a generous portion of pureed healthy chickpeas combined with tahini, a staple in Middle Eastern cooking, plus a dash of lemon juice all drizzled with olive oil and bits of garlic and presented with pita. All of the appetizers quickly blended into many bites of delight.
My guest’s eyes popped looking at the reasonable prices. Our main dishes were kobideh kebab ($8) and beef kebab ($11). The delicious kobideh kebab was minced Angus beef folded with spices and onions, skewered, char-broiled and served with grilled vegetables plus a choice of rice and the salad bar — a bargain if I’ve ever seen one!
Another choice, the mouthwatering gyro ($6), was loaded with a sliced beef and lamb mixture, veggies and cucumber sauce, and my so-appealing basil tomato soup ($2) was packed with bits of tomatoes and fresh herbs.
The tender beef shish kebab was beef tenderloin marinated with herbs, garlic and spices, then skewered and char-broiled. It was served with fresh vegetables, rice and a trip to the salad bar.
The salad bar offers three kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and varied seasonal vegetables. The absolute freshness and simplicity of the colors, textures and nutrients on display at the salad bar balances the spiciness of the main dishes.
Simply Falafel’s menu offers a familiar lineup of gyros ($6), blackened chicken breast platter ($10), tuna salad ($6) and the fish of the day ($12), but also look for a unique lamb burger ($7) done on a ciabatta bun.
Should there be room for dessert, order the baklava ($2, $2.50 for the large). We did not have a crumb left on our plates.
If you recall the former Saffron Grill in 50 Penn Place and liked the food there, this is the same owner, Moe Chahoi, who just moved his act to Edmond with business partner Chuck Miller. The hands that shaped the inside of the restaurant are those of Chahoi, who is also the accomplished cook.
The well-practiced chef has done great honor to the cuisine of the Middle East. He is pleasantly surprised with the interest shown thus far and is speculating that perhaps there could be more Simply Falafels in his future.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.