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I walk into Café Medi and make a beeline to a booth in the back to hide and watch the scene. Immediately, it couldn’t have been better. I pass a man in his sixties, standing with a bouquet of red roses. A few seconds later, a fair-faced young waitress rushes past him and he says quietly, “These are for you … you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve even seen.”

If this is your summer of love, Café Medi might be a good place for that budding romance. The 11-year-old Greek and Mediterranean-style hookah-friendly restaurant was the first of its kind to open in the mid-cities. It’s on Highway 26 in Hurst, just minutes from Tarrant County College Northeast campus. Three years ago, the owners opened a second location in Keller that’s bigger and has a patio space for live music. Dining at Café Medi kind of feels like you’re on a vacation in a foreign country where anything can happen.

Greek and Arabic tunes fill the long narrow room that’s connected to a patio, with subtly fancy touches of white tableclothes and vases of carnations. Warm pita bread is delivered in seconds along with my tea. It’s BYOB as well –– wine is a good elixir for love. A picture of the Parthenon hanging on the wall is a nice touch, too.

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“So, I’m trying to be low-carb,” I tell the waitress when she comes to my table –– hard to do with warm pita bread beckoning. She suggests the Greek salad ($8.95) with the chicken shawerma ($8.95) on top. The bird was marinated in Greek spices, grilled, shredded, and then spread over generous chunks of feta cheese, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and hints of oregano — all waiting to be doused in the homemade creamy Italian I’d ordered on the side. The salad comes with Kalamata olives, but I passed on them. I haven’t convinced my taste buds of their health benefits yet.

I consider ordering the hummus appetizer plate ($6.95). I’ve had it before and know it’s good. But then I’d have to eat the bread — although I have devoured hummus with just a spoon. Today, I must not forget my mission to fit into the forlorn dresses in the back of my closet to encourage said summer of love.

The chef comes over and tells me I’m beautiful (I told you this place was romantic) and insists on making me the Greek moussaka ($13.95) to take to my mother. She loves eggplant, which I mentioned in passing to my waitress. And this dish layers baked eggplant with ground beef topped with bechamel, a buttery, creamy traditional French sauce.

Head chef and co-owner Mohamed Matboli sits down at my table. “My Italian salad dressing is homemade,” he says, “with olive oil, salt, sugar, oregano, and red wine vinegar. And everyone loves eggplant, because eggplant is beautiful.” The moussaka is one of the most popular items on the menu.

Matboli came to the United States from Egypt in 1999. And Café Medi serves dishes inspired by countries across the Middle East. To smoke the fruity-flavored tobacco is $15 per person, and there’s a room at the front designated just for that.

I have plenty of salad and tender chicken shawerma to take home. The portions are big enough for two. And I promise chef Matboli that I’ll visit the Keller location at 129 E. Olive St. one Friday or Saturday night when there’s live music — and maybe I’ll even bring a cute date to try the tiramisu ($5.95). –– Sarah Angle

 

The regular Chow, Baby columnist will return next week.

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