Fans of N&J at 5600 E. Lincoln will remember a time not too long ago when a visit always included service from one of two friendly, longtime waitresses. One of them was Therese Srour, who now is a constant and friendly presence at Cafe Maurice, the new Mediterranean eatery she opened with her husband, Gus, in October in Cambridge Market, 21st Street and Webb Road.
The restaurant is small but gorgeous inside, and the food — a familiar mixture of Lebanese favorites plus kebabs and pastas — is very good.
ON THE MENU: If you’ve eaten at Bella Luna or Adrian’s or Mediterranean Grill, you’re already familiar with the type of menu Cafe Maurice offers. Diners can find Lebanese standards including kebbe, falafel, meat pies, hummus, tabouli and baba ghanoush. There’s also a healthy selection of kebabs, a couple of burgers, several salads and sandwiches and entrees starring grilled fish, pasta, seafood and chicken.
DON’T-MISS DISHES: I’d been hearing for months that I should check out Cafe Maurice from readers and foodies around town, but driving allllllllll the way out there seemed like such a task.
It was worth it.
Stepping into the restaurant, I was surprised by how nice it was. It’s in a newer building, and the space is filled with natural light and appointed with upscale tables, chairs, dishes and decor. We started the meal with a tour of the Lebanese specialties served on the Mezza Platter for $11.95.
It held a spinach pie, meat pie, stuffed grape leaf roll, stuffed cabbage roll, a falafel, a kebbe ball and a serving of hummus and of baba ghanoush, plus a little cup of yogurt. All the items were excellent, especially the exotically spiced kebbe ball, the crispy falafel and the square meat pie, which was as beautiful as it was tasty. I’ll be ordering this platter for my meal next time.
Of the two salads we sampled, the fresh and inviting Maurice’s salad ($7.25) was better. It was made with romaine, spring mix, tomatoes, cucumbers and candied almonds. The fattouch was a bit less impressive. Though fresh and pretty, the dressing lacked tang and tasted almost like an Italian vinaigrette. Also, though I know it’s not authentic, I prefer my fattouch sprinkled with feta, which Cafe Maurice will do upon request. An entree-sized fattouch was $7.25.
We loved the simplicity of the chicken kebab platter, which featured three skewers of flavorful marinated grilled chicken that made for a clean and simple meal alongside the hummus and rice we requested as side items. It was $7.95.
One of my dining companions sampled the Maurice’s steak burger ($8.95), which is not a typical hamburger (though that’s also available.) It featured a burger on a toasted homemade bun topped with coleslaw, cheese and a slice of ham. The flavor combination was unexpected but worked well, though eating it was a messy proposition.
Besides the appetizer platter, the best dish we sampled was the decadent shrimp Alfredo ($12.95), a beautiful dish made with spaghetti tossed with plump shrimp, still crunchy chunks of onion and slices of red pepper, mushrooms and a decadent Alfredo sauce so rich, the butter announced its presence visually upon reheating the next day. It was worth every calorie.
We also sampled several of the desserts that the Srours have been known for since the days of their former Patisserie Maurice near Harry and Rock Road, which supplied pastries to restaurants around the region until a fire forced its closure last year. A bakery case at the front of the restaurant features a tempting display of French pastries, ranging from tiramisu to cream puffs.
AMBIENCE: Warm, attractive and classy.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers average $5.50. Sandwiches and salads average about $8. Entrees are $11.50-$15.
SERVICE: Good. Our waitress was knowledgeable and professional, and Therese Srour regularly checked in on tables.
Three and a half forks
Where: 9747 E. 21st St., 316-425-5762
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, closed Sundays
Type of food: Mediterranean
Alcohol: Beer and wine