Monday, January 11, 2010

The Burnaissance: Sarah's Mediterranean Grill & Market

As a native Austinite, my ability to travel to almost any part of town without accessing Mopac, 183 or I-35 is part of my birth right. That's why my daily route to work from Northwest Hills to I-35 takes me down the south end of Burnet Road.

Since this stretch of Burnet Road has sprouted so many vintage shops and new restaurants, I've tried calling it SoBur, but my sister will have none of that. I argue that the area is at the south end of Burnet Road, but she maintains that it isn't south of anything, so we're left in a deadlock. In lieu of a proper moniker, I've at least created a word to describe the changes going on in that area, which I shall refer to as the Burnaissance. Cute? No? Well whose blog is this? Oh yeah, MINE.

Anyhoo, the scenery along Burnet Road has been vastly improved by recent openings of Apothecary Wine Bar, Simplicity Wine & Eats, and Hat Creek. (I would have included Lucky J's Chicken & Waffles, but they're in the process of relocating.) These new spots fit in with the vibe that was started not too long ago by Phil's Ice House, Amy's Ice Cream, Sampaio, Pacha, Blue Star Cafeteria, Hey Cupcake and Sarah's Grill & Market. But it's the old standbys that make SoBur (yeah I said it) unique - places like the Omelettry, Phoenicia, Upper Crust Bakery, Austin Diner, Ginny's Little Longhorn, and the strangely popular happy hour/burger dive, Billy's on Burnet.

Sarah's Mediterranean Grill & Market

I went to check out Sarah's Grille & Market mostly to look around and possibly buy some cool spices. It happened to be lunch time (somewhere) and the smells emanating from the Grill were much too enticing, so I ordered some takeout.

It's important to clarify that Mediterranean doesn't always mean Greek. Duh, you already knew that, but you might not have known that many of the dishes we consider Greek, are actually Lebanese in origin. I'm pointing this out because the owner, May Aranki is Lebanese. (The store is named after her youngest daughter.) And so friendly! She greets all of her customers like special party guests, inviting us to taste a sample of her excellent baklava. I ordered a couple of things to go; the lamb kebab plate, (I'm still swooning over lamb from last week), and the beef gyro plate.

While I waited for my order I took a look around the small grocery area. There were some fascinating imported items along with many of Sarah's own brand of products. The spice section was bountiful with large packets of cardamom, sage, basil seed, caraway seed and the most incredible thing of all, a large bottle filled with saffron for $4.99! (Paella anyone?)

Sarah's market stocks a variety of packaged olives or you can choose your own combination from the olive bar. The refrigerated items included Sarah's own brand of sauces, hummus, cheeses, frozen pita and frozen fish and all kinds of mysterious ingredients for creating Middle Eastern style cuisine. I was particularly impressed by how clean and orderly the place was. There's a lot of inventory packed into this little space, but it was easy to navigate since everything was where it should be.

My order was ready in less than 10 minutes despite that it was grilled to order. The lamb kebab plate included six good sized chunks of lamb, a side salad and a generous portion of hummus. The gyro plate included about the same number of beef portions, flattened and seasoned as for a gyro, with a side salad and generous portion of tzatziki sauce. Freshly made pitas were also included which I used as a make my own pita sandwich. All of this was $17 and some change.

Are you detecting a pattern here? It doesn't cost much to eat or shop at Sarah's where you can find unique ingredients and fresh, grilled to order quick food. Plus, they don't even charge extra for making you feel important. Even if you're not. Especially if you're not. Oh, but YOU, imaginary readers are very special. And, that's on the house. Thanks for stopping by and come back soon!

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  1. This is my 'hood, so I'm so delighted that somebody is working on a proper name for it. I like SoBur, but perhaps only because I think I should be sober more often, so naming my 'hood SoBur could be sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    How were the lamb kebabs at Sarah's? I haven't had those. I am kind of partial to that garlic sauce they serve with their roasted chicken. It's deeeelicious.

  2. Thank you, Optimista! Since I have yet to figure out how to respond to comments directly, I'll just have to do it here. I forgot to mention the roasted chickens, so I'm glad you can vouch for their goodness. The lamb kebabs were good, but my taste buds were skewed by the incredible lamb I had at El Greco a week earlier. That's probably why I was a little vague in my assessment.

    SoBur it is! Ironically, of course.

  3. Oh, I also had those lamb chops at El Greco and agree they are freakin' OUT OF THIS WORLD. Seriously, I had lamb chops at Perry's last night that cost twice as much, and they weren't nearly as good as the ones I had at El Greco (which reminds me, I really ought to blog/Yelp about both of those experiences).

  4. I've loved this place for a couple of years now. For me, they can do no wrong.

  5. I totly love this place, the mangement are suppper nice! and i love the fact that they cook with suchh care in their food! One of my fave placces 2 go 4 lunch!!