In a region filled with delicious Mediterranean eateries, Sahara Restaurant in Maumee is a bit of a hidden gem.
A mention of the small restaurant situated in a strip mall off Dussel Drive usually generates one of two responses: a blank stare or a declaration of “I love that place.”
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Address: 326 W. Dussel Drive, Maumee
Menu: Mediterranean and American
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average price: $$-$$$
Credit cards: AE, MC, V, D
Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good; ★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants.
The Blade pays for critics’ meals.
Sahara’s menu offers a wide selection of Mediterranean and American dishes. During our recent visits, we stuck mostly with the Mediterranean portion of the menu, and our decision didn’t leave us disappointed.
Every dish makes the most of fairly basic seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and lemon.
MENU: Sahara Restaurant
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We began a recent lunch with a half order of the Veggie Sampler ($11.95), which featured more than enough fatoush, tabouli, hummos, two pieces of falafel, and two grape leaves for two. Everything was fresh and tasty. The hummos was creamy and a perfect complement to the pita bread and crispy oregano-seasoned pita chips that greet diners at each table. The tabouli, in particular, stood out; the salad was made with more mint than expected, giving it a bright, clean taste. One minor quibble is that the falafel was a tad dry.
For our entrees, we selected the Greek Spinach Pie ($7.95) and the Chicken Shawarma ($8.95).
The spinach pie was light, crisp, and airy with a great earthy flavor. The Chicken Shawarma was lightly marinated, cooked perfectly, and served with a delicious garlic sauce that packed just enough punch.
Both were served with rice and a lunch item — hummos, salad, fries, rice, or soup. In this case, we opted for the lemon-rice soup, a frequent daily special that is top-notch. On subsequent visits, we also sampled the lentil and chicken noodle soups, and both received high marks.
Our next visit was for a late dinner, which we began with the lamb-filled grape leaves ($6.95 for five pieces) with cucumber sauce for dipping (hummos is also an option). The grape leaves are short and thickly stuffed with meat and rice.
For entrees, we chose the Salmon and Shrimp Combo ($18.95), the Mix Kabob Combo ($18.95), and the Beef Ghalaba ($11.95 for a half order, or $15.95 for a whole). Both meals were served with a dinner item (same as lunch items; fatoush, tabouli, or Greek salad can be added for $1 more).
The salmon and shrimp were grilled to perfection with a great lemon-pepper seasoning. The Mix Kabob featured a trio of beef, kafta, and chicken kabobs. The meat was nice and juicy, and not overcooked. Though the portion was plenty large enough to have leftovers, an accompaniment of grilled vegetables would have been a nice addition.
The Ghalaba is a perfectly balanced meal with marinated chicken strips and grilled onions, zucchini, yellow squash and green peppers served over a bed of rice.
We also tried the Gyro sandwich ($6.50) with fries ($2.25) and the Chicken Fajita Wrap ($6.95). The Gyro is a pita stuffed with a generous portion of lamb topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and sauce. The sauce was the perfect counter to the onions. The French fries were nothing special, and in the future we would stick to another side. The Chicken Fajita Wrap featured grilled chicken, and sautéed onions, green peppers, cheese, and rice. In both cases, the sandwiches alone are a hearty meal.
Our servers were friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient — as each course was finished, it was quickly replaced by the next. At no point, however, did we feel rushed.
Though we were surrounded mostly by empty tables in the cozy dining room, Sahara clearly has a brisk carryout business. And why wouldn’t it? The restaurant offers generous portions, fresh ingredients, and something to satisfy vegetarians and carnivores alike, regardless of whether you want a dinner out with friends or family, or quick meal on the go.
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