In a small strip mall on Donnelly Avenue, a side street in the shadow of Ridglea Theater on the West Side, there’s a welcome sight for fans of Mediterranean cuisine. The neighborhood already has Hedary’s, a Fort Worth institution, but in a concrete sea dominated by fast-food joints and chain establishments, Saffron Sky Mediterranean Grill arrives as if delivered by a school of winged dolphins.
The place is not much to look. The storefront is what you’d expect of a strip-mall eatery, and don’t expect to see the interior featured in Dwell anytime soon. Schmaltzy landscape paintings decorate the walls, and looming behind the cash register are scores of vases and ornate boxes. A service counter and small display case for desserts are all that separate you from the open kitchen. The restaurant is essentially just one brightly lit room: no levels, no partitions, just four-tops spaced evenly throughout, making for a setting that’s as casual as the food.
The menu is pretty standard, featuring all of the usual suspects, including kebabs, baked dishes, sandwiches, and dips. A small order of hummus consisted of one entrée-sized plate upon which dunes of beige swirled, creating shallow areas for the olive oil and tahini to gather into golden-green pools. My recent lunch date, a vegetarian and also a hummus expert, described Saffron Sky’s take on the traditional Mediterranean dip as some of the best in town. Specifically, it was creamy and salty and had just the right amount of citrus-kissed garlic flavor to let you know you weren’t just eating puréed chickpeas.
We weren’t eating with our fingers. We were sampling the garlicky delight with fluffy homemade pita bread, the same stuff used on the falafel sandwich and gyro. Are there better gyros in town? Sure, but even considering that the competition hereabouts is slim, Saffron Sky’s version of the traditional Greek staple was decent. A one-hander of lamb meat and beef sliced from the clearly visible vertical spit, piled high, and paired with only the slightest suggestions of lettuce and tomato, the gyro really benefitted from the addition of tzatziki. Nearly as thick as peanut butter (owing no doubt to a base of sturdy Greek yogurt), the sauce offered just the right amount of moistness to liven up every bite, though a little more cucumber flavor would have been nice. (If you order your gyro to go, make sure you ask for extra tzatziki.)
The falafel sandwich was a much better, tastier option. What seemed like two dozen deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas (spiced with parsley, garlic, and onion) overflowed the warm, doughy bread. The fresh and succulent toppings –– lettuce, tomato, parsley, pickles, and tahini sauce –– perfectly complemented the dynamic and hearty falafel. The fries that accompanied the gyro were very McDonald’s-esque (thin and greasy), but the saffron rice that came with the falafel sammy was rich and robust, with a strong nutty flavor. And there’s no telling what was in the vinegar-based dressing on the side salad, but it was zesty, salty, and amazing.
Each entrée comes with two sides –– your choice of everything from fatoush (pita-and-veggie salad) and baba ghannouj to chicken vegetable soup and roasted potatoes –– and the menu is dominated by the kebabs (grilled lamb and beef, lamb or beef alone, chicken, and shrimp). But wanting to stay simple, we went with the good ol’ chicken shawarma. Though fresh, Saffron Sky’s roasted and sliced bird was a tad dry and could have used more spice. And though our service overall was quick and friendly, I also wish our server had told us that the saffron rice included chopped roasted almonds –– not everyone likes them.
Saffron Sky’s main hurdle is that Fort Worth is becoming –– slowly, but still –– a foodie town, and to thrive you’ve really got to stand out. These days, solid, occasionally great food in a casual setting might not be enough to get ’er done. Unfortunate but true.
Saffron Sky Mediterranean Grill
5913 Donnelly Av, FW.
817-732-1007. 11am-3pm Mon, 11am-8pm Tu-Fri, 11am-9pm Sat. Closed Sun.
All major credit cards accepted.
Hummus (small) …………. $3.25
Chicken shawarma ……. $9.49
Gyro ………………………… $4.99
Falafel sandwich ……….. $4.99