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Scene in South Bend: Elia’s Mediterranean Cuisine

| Thursday, September 4, 2014

scene-web-bannerMary McGraw
Although the food here at the dining hall is pretty darn good, we all know that it can get tiring after a while. I remember being very impressed when I discovered our bi-weekly Mediterranean nights three years ago, but my standards have slightly risen after visiting Greece while studying abroad. This past week, I decided to branch out of South Dining Hall and find somewhere local to eat. I stumbled upon Elia’s Mediterranean Cuisine and was in general very pleased with my experience.

I have to admit, I am a vegetarian — not necessarily a good attribute for a (self-proclaimed) food critic; but don’t worry, I had some meat-loving company with me that gave the thumbs-up for their meat dishes. Regardless, I was thrilled to find an entire vegetarian section on the menu.

The menu included the well-known and expected Mediterranean dishes such as falafel, tabouli, chicken shawarma and hummus, but there were also some surprises such as loubieh b’zeit (simmered garlic green beans served with rice), tiropita (three types of cheese stuffed in flaky sheets of phyllo dough) and meat grape leaf rolls (grape leaves, onions and tomatoes with diced ground beef). In case you aren’t familiar with trendy and delicious food, falafel is basically crushed-up garbanzo and fava beans mixed with seasoning, onions and garlic — all deep-fried to a golden crisp. Elia’s served authentic, mouth-watering falafel; it was very much up to Greek standards. The lunch menu offered a falafel sandwich with four falafel balls, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles all wrapped up in a thin pita wrap.  It was very filling and under $6.

For the carnivores out there, I hear the chicken shawarma and gyros are worth trying. Both were large portions, and on the lunch menu they cost between $5 and $7 dollars. That’s about all I have to say about that, but take my friends’ words for it that the meat dishes are worth trying.

As for the rest of the menu, I would surprisingly not recommend the hummus. Sabra brand hummus is one of my favorite things in the world, so I was very disappointed to see both the price and the quality of this “authentic” dip. I spent more on the appetizer of hummus (granted, it was a generous bowl), than I did on my falafel sandwich, and it honestly lacked flavor and depth. I was also not a huge fan of their pita; it was too thin and crusty, lacking all taste and texture.

Unfortunately, my friends and I were too full to finish off our meal with dessert, but the sweets looked simply sumptuous. They had several flavors of baklava (a Greek specialty made with honey and layers of phyllo dough) including pistachio and walnut; I will definitely be picking up a few squares on my next visit.

When it comes to the atmosphere, I was both surprised and disappointed. Surprised because my friend made it seem like an order-and-go, Chipotle-style restaurant; disappointed because it was a bit spaced out and quiet. The wall décor was up to par with Greek scenes and painted murals, and the lighting was quirky and tasteful, but the tables were too far apart and awkward. It’s the perfect place for a girl’s lunch out or a dad-son quick bite, not so much for a romantic date or a birthday party.

Overall, Elia’s Mediterranean Cuisine is authentic and high-quality, with very reasonably-priced, large-portioned dishes. It is located at 2128 South Bend Avenue, so next time you are craving something besides the dining hall, I recommend giving it a try.


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About Maddie Daly

A senior English and French major in love with Paris, cooking and fashion, currently residing in Chicago.

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