Friday, October 31, 2014


Little Damascus Restaurant may be tucked away in a small strip plaza in Niles, Ohio, but there's nothing small about the food. If you love Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes (or follow a vegetarian/vegan diet), this place is a must-
visit; trust me, you won't go away hungry.

The interior isn't large, and there appears to be a lot of take-out business. But several tables are tucked inside and, when the weather's warm, there are a couple of tables outside for those who enjoy that kind of thing (which usually I don't. I hate to share my food with flying critters, and on hot days, I prefer to stay cool while I eat). We visited not long ago with friends Jerry and Barb from Niles, and our server immediately offered to put two tables together to make sure we had enough table space.

In fact, that was fortituous; once we saw the menu, we wanted to try just about everything. And although it took us a while to look over the menu and daily specials and decide, by golly, we came close to doing exactly that.

We started with what we considered to be appetizers: A small order of grape leaves ($3.99); a spinach pie ($2.99) and a vegetarian plate with hummus and tabboula ($5.99). Then came our choices for the main course, which included a lamb gyro with lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, pickles and sour cream for my husband Jack ($5.99). Barb is a lamb lover, so the lamb sandwich with grilled lamb, peppers, onions and shrooms with pepper sauce and garlic sauce on Syrian bread ($6.99) was the obvious choice. Jerry chose the kibbee platter (kibee with pepper sauce with bread and tossed salad ($6.99), while my pick was one of the daily specials -  collard greens roll-ups, which turned out to be much like grape leaves only stuffed with veggies and drizzled in olive oil ($6.49).

When the first batch of goodies arrived, we got a pleasant surprise: Food here is served on real plates with real silverware - none of that flimsy paper and plastic stuff we halfway expected because it's a small place that deals a lot in carryout.

The second surprise shouldn't have been one; the whatever-were-we-thinking awareness that we'd overdone it. Portions here are not small (my roll-ups, for instance, totaled six, and each was close to an inch thick and nearly a foot long. That said, we dug in and ended up with yet another surprise: Nothing left to take home except four of my collard greens. 

Needless to say, we all sampled a little of everything. The spinach pie turned out to be the least favorite for all of us - a little too much pie and a little too little spinach. The kibbe, which none of us had tasted before, was perhaps our favorite; good-sized oval breaded chopped meat that was very flavorful, especially with the garlic sauce. The gyro was gynormous - Jack couldn't even come close to finishing it - and Barb's lamb sandwich was quite large as well. Not only that, she said it was more flavorful than she'd expected. Three of us gave a thumbs-up to the grape leaves, although we all agreed that my collard greens roll-ups were even better. 

The hummus was delivered spread out on a plate rather than in a bowl, garnished with three hamburger pickles. Say what? We said, accompanied by skeptical looks all around. We all tried dipping using the rolls that came in a basket and loved the flavor, but no one made an effort to try those pickles. That is, until I finally caved in and said what the heck. I dipped one in the hummus to coat it well, then popped it in my mouth. And guess what? Another surprise. It was delicious, so I quickly polished off the other two as well. Yum!

As you might expect, we stuffed ourselves so full that we couldn't even think about dessert. But next time, I, at least, won't be so foolish. A chunk of baklava that was on display- one of my all-time to-die-for sweets - has my name on it. In fact, make that two!

If you go:

Little Damascus Restaurant
1112 Niles Cortland Road (State Route 46)
Niles, Ohio 44446
(330) 469-6623

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.