Adam and Jalal Channa have created a local mini restaurant empire — first with Dallas’ Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill, then with Fort Worth’s Terra Mediterranean Grill, which has additional locations in Dallas and Irving. Now, the brothers have extended their territory yet again: Grip Mediterranean Grill’s three locations (Arlington, Denton, and Dallas) target folks who want Lebanese/Greek/Egyptian flavors in a quick-serve atmosphere. The Arlington location is in College Park: 20 acres of green space, classrooms, residences, fast-food joints, and bars near the east campus of the University of Texas at Arlington.
The good news is that most of Grip’s food is made fresh and assembled to order — the pita bread comes from nearby Baklava Bakery.
The restaurant’s eponymous main feature is a wrap sandwich — get a “grip,” get it? — in several varieties. The falafel grip included a handful of tasty, perfectly fried falafel, smooshed and spread throughout the burrito-sized, tortilla-like wrapping. The inside was slathered with super-tart ziziki sauce — unlike the minty, garlicky Greek version (tzatziki), Grip’s condiment was mostly yogurt flavored. Due either to the overabundance of goodies or the sauce, the wrap exploded mid-meal, leaving my dining companion and me to give up on the grip and grab our forks.
For $3 more, you can add a drink and your choice of fries or fabulous fried cauliflower. Presented in a paper cone with a lemony tahini dipping sauce, the veggie was a little salty.
The Greek salad with gyro meat was another success. Shaved from a conical spit, the traditional beef/lamb combo was moist and flavorful, and the serving was generous. The big bowl of greens also featured cucumber, shaved feta, and tomato, all held together with a vinaigrette dressing heavy on the oregano. The ziziki sauce actually made a better dressing.
The baba ghannouj was wonderfully smoky and perfectly seasoned, the little bits of eggplant seed giving the dish a nice texture. The lean, delicious ground beef and lamb “meatballs” — kafta — were both sweet (thanks to some nutmeg or allspice) and spicy.
One big miss was the hummus. Most of the flavor in Grip’s traditional chickpea dish came from the sesame tahini rather than garlic or lemon. Tahini is mostly flavorless, anyway, and the whole thing needed salt.
In College Park, diners may find themselves competing with the masses for parking, especially during graduation season — UTA is hosting no fewer than 10 graduations over the next two months, and classic-rockers Kansas will be performing there soon. But props to university and Arlington leaders for helping UTA transcend its commuter-college image and make the school environs hip, entertaining, and homey. Yes, Grip is part of a chain, but the food is fresher and healthier than what you’d find at most other chain restaurants. Plus, the flavor of the Mediterranean soul food remains intact.
Grip Mediterranean Grill
115 W 2nd St, Arlington. 817-795-4747. 11am-9pm daily.
All major credit cards accepted.
Grip w/falafel ………………….. $7
Greek salad w/gyro meat …. $10
Kafta ……………………………… $4
Roasted cauliflower ………… $2