Mediterranean Grill – By Guest Blogger Blake Tarr

Sometimes even the best of us rib eating, hamburger chomping, red meat engulfing, hot dog swallowing, “if it ain’t once move it ain’t getting eating” American needs a slight change of pace. This is what brought me to the Mediterranean Grille in Squirrel Hill. Before I begin my analysis of the food on I would like to be quite frank. “I don’t like food, I love it. If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow, I will return tomorrow night with high expectations…pray you don’t disappoint me.” This quote is from the character Anton Ego from the movie Ratatouille. THAT’S NOT HOW BLAKE ROLLS! This holier than now approach to food makes me sick; foodies go suck on a celery glazed lemon compote with a beautiful chiffonade of greens and truffles picked from a garden when magical unicorns and happy Smurfs attempt to avoid Gargamel.

Blake likes food if the food tastes good! Simply and plain, and the Mediterranean Grille has good food. I went on that rant because I am no expert in Mediterranean cuisine. I don’t pretend to be. If you have a Ph.D. in hummus and can tell the subtly tones left behind after sampling an order of tabouli, this review is not for you. All I know is when my taste buds command my hands to bring some more of that grub back up to my gullet; I have found a place I will be returning to.

The first thing you notice at the Mediterranean Grille (MG) is that you may need Navy Seal Team 6 to find this place. The storefront resides on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, which is becoming hotbed for international cuisine catering to a bustling college crowd eager to prove they are more cultured than their coal-mining parents. A neon sign in the window is the only landmark that can lead you to this hidden gem. When you walk in the dark hallway, you are immediately forced downstairs to an area which contains multiple offices, yes; we are dining in an office building. My first trip to the MG, I was sure a doll on a tricycle was going to come out and ask me “Would you like to play a game?” But then ahead of me resided my holy grail.

In a room that resembled more of a dance studio than restaurant, you sit down in a pretty cramp room which has mirrors all over the walls. Now one thing about Blake is as much as Blake loves food, he loves Blake even more, so being able to watch Blake as Blake ate, stupendous. After waiting a bit to be seated, it was clear that there were not many people staffed in this establishment. After a nice talk with one of the waitresses, who while maybe not the most expeditious server, made up for it with sheer hospitality! I was given the back story of the place without even asking. Apparently the restaurant is a family owned endeavor ran by a mother and her daughters please cue the song “Family Affair” by Sly and the Family Stone, while you read the rest of this review. Blake absolutely has a soft spot for family owned establishments.

My introduction to the food involved the Mezza platter. This hefty platter is meant to be shared! It contains hummus, baba ghannouj, tabouli, feta cheese, and calamata olives. Opa! The exciting thing about this platter is not the components, even though they accompanied each other nicely. It was the pita! The pita was soft and warm when it arrived at the table, clearly just prepared, not sitting in the back of the kitchen pleading and hoping it gets selected like a puppy at the kennel. My personal taste does not favor baba ghannouj, but everything else was delicious.

My next choice was the artichoke heart salad. The description of this tasty morsel states artichoke hearts smothered with a sesame tahini sauce, and fresh lemon. Smothered, was definitely an accurate description. If you like tahini sauce, you will love this, which almost was a tahini soup with as much sauce as was used, but Blake screams, “This was scrumptious!” The artichoke hearts meshed well with the sauce for a refreshing taste on my tongue that made me crave my entrée. Based on the size of this dish I can only assume it was meant for sharing because you are provided with an overabundance of food on this dish also.

Lastly, I finished with a few wraps to end the meal. The Gyro Wrap consists of your standard toppings of lettuce, tomato, onion, in a wrap with a sour cream sauce. The Falafel Wrap consists of falafel with again the same toppings as the gyro wrap but the tahini sauce is the closer, telling the sour cream sauce, you had a good run, hit the showers buddy. There was nothing special about either wrap, good but not great….hmmm maybe I do have a little Anton Ego in me……a little. Both wraps held true to the restaurants theme of huge portions, but flavor wise, if you have had a gyro or falafel before, there is nothing novel here.

In summary, I enjoyed my trip to the Mediterranean Grille, if you can find a Sherpa to take you there, I would say go. The establishment is reasonably priced with their main plates between $12 -20. This is not going to be life changing, life inspiring, culinary transcendent food which leaves your taste buds in a mind blowing speechless haze. It is a wonderful change a pace to all of us who are half caveman and typically only dine on unsuspecting animals found in The Jungle Book. Blake just liked the food, and that is absolutely okay for me!

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