I’m a huge believer in trying new things while on vacation, especially when it comes to food. I have a rule that we’re not allowed to eat at restaurants that we have back in our town while we’re on vacation. I mean, where’s the fun in that? Experiencing new things is why vacations exist. And don’t worry, you don’t have to go completely left field with this rule. You can still stick to your favorite cuisine if you’d like. Say your family loves Italian food. Well, skip Olive Garden and look on Yelp for a little Italian restaurant that has great reviews. I guarantee you’ll find something! Yelp is actually a great tool for finding non-chain restaurants. It’s nice to check out what people are saying about a particular restaurant and see real photos of the food. We use Yelp even if we’re in an area we’ve been to before and its led us to restaurants that we now consider our go-to places. Yelp definitely came through for us while we were on vacation earlier this week.
In case you missed it, Cotey and I went to stay at the Edgefield just outside of Portland this week- partly to celebrate my birthday and partly to escape Moses Lake. We found ourselves looking for somewhere fun to eat near our hotel one night so we hopped on Yelp. We went totally outside of the box on this one and ended up at Nicholas Restaurant in Gresham, which specializes in Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine. I was drawn to this place partly because of their slogan, which I don’t remember entirely but it went something like, “come as guests, leave as family.” I just love visiting restaurants that are family owned and operated because they have a way of making you feel right at home from the moment you sit down. And this place was no exception, even though we were in their third and newest location (location one and two are downtown Portland). I still felt like I was at a friend’s house and their grandparents were back in the kitchen whipping us up some dinner. I can’t get enough of places like that!
Our server started us off with a giant piece of freshly baked pita bread. The bread was the size of a medium pizza I swear, and it was delicious with their house dipping sauce.
I mean look at that pita bread! I was already sold on this restaurant, which basically tells you I can be won over with just bread. We ordered their meat mezza (or sampler) platter to share so we could try a little bit of everything. Ours came with humus (blended garbanzo beans), tahziki (a mix of sour cream, yogurt and cucumbers), fresh falafel (garbanzo beans- fried), tabouli salad (tomato, parsley and quinoa), a beef kata skewer and a chicken kabab pizza pie. Oh and more pita bread, as the humus, tahziki and tabouli salad were designed to be scooped up with it.
The tabouli salad was hands down my favorite part of the platter. Traditionally, it is made with fresh tomatoes, parsley, onion, mint and bulgur and then seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil. Some recipes replace the bulgur with quinoa or couscous. There was just so much flavor going on there that I wanted to just eat it by the spoonful. The falafel was also delicious, especially when paired with the tahziki. We also split a bowl of beef shawarma which came with this amazing saffron jasmine rice. Usually when you have dishes with rice, the rice can be boring until you mix your meat and sauces with it. That wasn’t the case with this dish as the rice stood out all on its own.
The restaurant was also an affordable choice as we only spent around $40 for two dishes and drinks. We did have plenty of leftovers though and I think that two people could easily share one dish. And a family of three or four might be satisfied with ordering how we did. We definitely left happy and full which I think is the only criteria for putting a restaurant on our “favorites” list. Next time we go back I want to try a few of their other fun drinks like their traditional Turkish coffee and their date juice. Their meat stuffed grape leaves will also be a must! Until then, we will just have to salivate over our memories of the place.