Once upon a time, the west side had just one Middle Eastern restaurant, and it was good enough.
Now, we've got a veritable mezze plate of places that serve dolmas, hummus and falafel, from popular Terra Mediterranean Grill to the aforementioned favorite, Hedary's.
And it's truly an embarrassment of riches, these dishes, because the promising Saffron Sky Mediterranean Grill, new on the horizon on Camp Bowie and Bryant Irvin, seems just as able to readily conquer any remaining kebab cravings.
The casual spot straddles the stereotypical line with its dining room, full of Greek Isles-paintings, bright murals of sunsets, and fake-vine-laden columns, but the food is authentic. And, really, that's all that matters.
After just a couple of months in business, Saffron Sky is a seamlessly run, casual production, whether you order lunch or have dinner.
The fatoush salad ($5.99, small; $7.49, large) got our dinner off to a splendid start. The traditional lettuce, tomato and onion mixture featured pieces of crispy pita bread, and the light olive oil dressing proved a nice layer for the sumac-infused salad. And a side of the stuffed lamb grape leaves, or dolmas ($5.49), small and cigar-shaped, were a winning combination of rice, meat, tomato and onions.
Main courses come with a choice of two sides -- a difficult task given the gamut of options like baba ghanouj and tabouli. We chose the latter on our chicken shawarma plate ($9.49) and, partly due to the frigid weather, we were drawn in by the chicken vegetable soup. First, the star of the plate, the shawarma: The delicately seasoned dark-meat chicken didn't look so much sliced and roasted (as the menu promised), but sautéed. No matter, it was delicious, and so was the light, parsley-prevalent tabouli. Saffron Sky's version plays down the dish's cracked wheat, but we didn't miss it with the bright flavors here. The tomato-heavy soup with its chunks of chicken and large pieces of carrots, celery and onion, also proved a fragrant, welcome addition to the meal.
We didn't see the telltale shawarma or gyro rotating spits in the open-air kitchen, and the gyro sandwich ($4.99) didn't force the issue since it consisted of pre-sliced lamb and beef pieces. The generously portioned sandwich was enjoyable, but it needed more tzatziki sauce to cut through the meat's richness. The falafel sandwich ($4.99) with its spicy, crispy chickpea patties was one-note, and lacking what's possibly our favorite condiment, tahini.
Behind the counter is an attractive brick oven in which the restaurant bakes its pies (meat, cheese, spinach or zatar; $3.99 each). Unfortunately our spinach version turned out dry - the four small triangles sorely needed some type of cheese, and the doughy breading was overpowering.
The lunch special menu has five entrees ($7.99-$9.49) -- such as the lamb shank and the veggie sampler -- all of which come with three or four additional sides.
Saffron Sky is a standard-bearing, no-frills Mediterranean grill, and amid our increasingly crowded landscape of gastropubs and artisanally rendered places, I'll take it.