Zellers: Ferdos gets him to the GreekWritten by Don Zellers | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ferdos Mediterranean Restaurant (3065 W. Bancroft St., (419) 535-9494, www.ferdosrestaurant.com) rose from the ashes of its previous incarnation, which also took its name from the Arabic word meaning “Paradise.”
In February of 2005, an arsonist burnt down the little family-run restaurant. However, Maher Barazi, who has owned Ferdos for the past 11 years, did not let his dream die. A year and a half after the fire, Barazi reopened the restaurant in its new form.
It didn’t seem dramatically different inside than I remember from my UT days a decade ago. It felt a bit smaller than the original, more intimate.
You can tell Barazi has a passion for what he does just by watching him interact with his patrons. Now, I’ve seen several restaurant managers and occasionally some owners “work the room” at their establishments, but it seemed different here, more sincere.
One thing I noticed was that Ferdos was ridiculously clean. During my chat with Barazi, he boasted to me that you could “eat off the kitchen floor” and even invited me to have a look for myself.
The waitresses were attentive and had a genuine pleasantness about them. Not like some servers who refer to you as hun’ and sweetie and pretend to be your best friend.
At Ferdos I was able to check out their take on some of my favorites and try a few new ones too, like baba ghanoush.
Baba ghanoush. It’s an extremely fun word to say, but has kind of an odd taste to it. It has a strong lemon and somewhat bitter flavor on its own, but I found that the experience is enhanced quite a bit when you dunk some falafel in it.
Another first timer for me was the kafta. Kafta (often spelled “kofta”) is very popular in the Middle East and Southern Asia and also common in Central Europe and India as well. It is generally made up of minced or ground meat — usually beef or lamb — mixed with a variety of different spices. The spices used and the kafta’s form (meatball, patty, cylindrical, etc.) depend on what part of the world you are eating it in.
Ferdos serves kafta in a couple different ways. For my entrée, I tried the “Arayes,” which is grilled, beef, and in pattie form. It comes tucked inside pita bread, and served with a side of hummus. You can also get the “Shish Kafta”, which is served on a skewer. I found the Arayes to be pretty good, but not as satisfying as the lamb meat grape leaves I also ordered as part of my appetizer sampler.
The hummus had a good consistency and was a nice blend of garlic and lemon. It didn’t have one flavor that overpowered the rest, like hummus I’ve gotten elsewhere that was so “garlicky’ I could’ve knocked out Dracula with my breath.
The pita bread was soft and very fresh. You could tell Barazi, who is Syrian, takes great pride in the bread. As far as he knows, Ferdos is the only place in town that makes its own. He said there are even a few other restaurants that serve Ferdos’ bread, but was secretive as to which ones.
I was starting to get full, so I wasn’t feeling too ambitious about dessert. But sitting in a Mediterranean restaurant, I felt compelled to order some baklava. If you’ve never had it, baklava is a delicious treat made of phyllo dough and chopped nuts. It generally comes in small pieces, and is sticky from drizzled honey. I got a piece for only a buck. It was amazing, and had enough honey on it to complement the nuts but not so much that your fingers were dripping with it.
Ferdos offers about 20 different kinds of wine, including vintages from Italy, France, Lebanon, Spain, and Germany, among others. Before now, I thought that Germans only liked making beer, and I didn’t know they mass produced any type of alcohol in Lebanon.
Prices seemed in line with other similar style restaurants; about $6-$10 for appetizers, salads, and sandwiches and about $5 more for most of the entrées.
Ferdos is closed on Sundays, but the owner told me you can rent out the place for parties and special events. It holds about 90 people, so you can have that over-the-top sweet 16 party for your daughter and she won’t have to be picky on the invites. On second thought, just throw a party for yourself — you deserve a taste of “paradise,” don’t you?
Don Zellers is co-producer of “Fred LeFebvre and the Morning News” and co-host of “The Benchwarmers” on News Talk 1370 WSPD. He is also the station’s Good Swill Ambassador.