Majeed Mediterranean Restaurant (4658 Gravois Avenue, 314-282-0981)
Majeed's falafel sandwich.
, which opened two weeks ago in the heart of Bevo Mill, is something new for the neighborhood: a Syrian restaurant. The Majeed family fled the war in their native country, spending three years in Turkey before coming to St. Louis as refugees. Now they're cooking up classic Middle Eastern food with a terrific price point.
And they're doing it in a space that exemplifies the endlessly changing nature of the neighborhood around them. Only a block from the big windmill that gives Bevo Mill its name, Majeed has taken over the big two-room space previously occupied by Papagayo's, a Honduran restaurant that moved to Northampton in 2016
. The decor still screams Central America — bright woven cloth covers the chairs, and palm trees smile from a beach scene near the entrance. But the Majeeds have added some touches of their own, including Middle-Eastern style pots on one wall and a framed photo of a mosque near the entrance. And hey, there are palm trees in Damascus.
You might not come to Majeed for the ambience, but the food provides an excellent reason. Nothing here is more than $12 — but everything we ate was both generously portioned and exceptionally tasty. Try the falafel sandwich, which combines soft patties with a heaping pile of vegetables in a slender pita. It's a steal at $3.49.
Or get one of the larger plates — the chicken shawarma comes with a classic side salad and rice for $9.99. The meat was expertly cooked.
For an appetizer, you might try the fatayer. The classic Lebanese pies come three to an order and are stuffed with your choice of beef or cheese. The dough has a note of sweetness — it tastes almost like a beignet, only in this case it's your lucky day: The fried dough is filled with cheese.
Other appetizers include hummus, baba ganoush, kibbeh and stuffed grape leaves. You could also get a tabbouleh salad or the classic Lebanese bread salad, fattoush.
The cheese fatayer: delicious.
There is no alcohol here, and the restaurant boasts that its meat is halal, or prepared in custom with Muslim dietary laws. Choose tea, soda, Arabic coffee or a yogurt drink. Or just skip to dessert — Majeed offers rice pudding or baklava.
In recent months, a host of Mexican restaurateurs have fled rents on Cherokee Street for the comparative affordability of the Bevo neighborhood. In bringing the food of the Middle East to a place that used to offer the food of Honduras, Majeed stands apart from that path. But the restaurant shows that deep south city remains an intoxicating mix of cultures, a place where new immigrants get a foothold in St. Louis — and bring some really good food with them as they do.
For now, Majeed Mediterranean Restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
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