Recently, I had a Baklava craving. Don’t ask why. I just wanted to indulge in phyllo dough, honey and nuts. Most places in Orlando that I know of where Baklava is served are restaurants. Since these few places have fallen short recently. I need to desperately find another source. I just wanted a piece or few pieces to savor. A little internet digging and I found Middle Eastern Market and Deli.
This place is located in a nondescript strip mall on Orange Blossom Trail opposite the Florida Mall. Apart from the above sign there is nothing to suggest Middle Eastern. However, all ends or begins when you walk in the door.
Immediately, you are in the middle of tables and chairs with people milling around. There is a counter towards the back. This is where it all happens. I should really have that feast after all. There are several prepared salads, hot and cold items, desserts, drinks, and a whole host of food displayed and ready for consumption.
Through a side archway is a grocery store. There are rows of shelves fully stocked with spices, canned and packaged Middle Eastern staples. In the middle is a section of preserved fruits. In the front room is a wall of Hookah pipes for sale. The lay out is very clean, open and welcoming.
Back to the food. Yes I am here for Baklava. They offer trays of Baklava with walnuts or pistachios cut into little squares. There is also fanciful prepackaged assorted Baklava. I was told that their Baklava comes fresh from the famous Middle Eastern Shatila Bakery in Dearborn, Michigan. My order of Baklava with walnuts and pistachios did not disappoint. Even though is was a Michigan import the flaky phyllo dough released sweet honey on each nibble. Crunchy nuts add their distinct flavors to an already heavenly experience. This Baklava was drier and denser than most I’ve had, but the flavors and textures are all there. Maybe I just like to lap at honey.
Lamb and Beef Gyro
Since I am confronted with all of this food I might as well grab something. My choice of gyros was Lamb and Beef with a Beef Shawarma. I am accustomed to thick chewy pita bread that pushes my gut a good two inches out. No complains. But this wrap was thinner and allowed for a meatier mouth full rather than a doughy mouth full. I welcome the opportunity to actually be able to bite the whole roll without pieces falling away. The well seasoned vegetables and sauces balance this meat wrap very well. It was filling without my gut exploding.
Middle East Sodas
Not everyday does one get presented with foreign sodas. So I took a sampling of Tangerine, Pineapple and Apple Soda from Lebanon and Egypt. These sodas were bold in flavors and light on gas. I rather like them.
What started out as a craving ended up being a surprisingly fulfilling experience. There will be no belly dancers popping out to tantalize, or is there? I didn’t ask. But there is plentiful authentic food in unpretentious surrounds. The prices are decent and the service is very accommodating. Very few casual counter service establishments in Orlando offer genuine hospitality. I am always encouraged when people are eager to share their culture the minute a question is asked. No wonder this place has been in business since 1995. Shame on me for not visiting earlier. I know where to get trays of Baklava now. Next time I’m going to expand my horizons and try other things. I may even purchase some delicacies from the grocery shelves and create my own experiences.