The thing I love most about living in the city is being able to walk everywhere. To me it’s worth the longer commute to be able to walk to the restaurants, bars, and stores we frequent in Fed Hill. We even walk to the grocery store when the weather’s nice and the list isn’t too long. And if you’re walking as opposed to driving, you’re also forced to be a little more observant about what you happen to be wandering by. But even with all that walking, there are still times when it takes a year and a half of city living to stop into a restaurant you’ve strolled by countless times. That’s what Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen was for us – a place less than five minutes’ walk from our apartment that we’d never set foot in. We’d been to neighboring bars and restaurants, we grocery shop just a few blocks away, but we hadn’t even looked at the menu posted outside before Saturday.
So on Saturday, bored of our usual lunch haunts, we decided we’d give it a shot. There were a few open tables outside the restaurant, but even with the beautiful weather, we weren’t totally sold on the idea of sitting so close to busy Fort Ave while we ate. Inside, Baba’s has one of the smallest dining rooms I’ve ever seen. Six tables are crammed into the tiny space, and most of them were full…at 2:30pm on a Saturday. Considering that this was Preakness weekend and the restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol, I was impressed.
The one-page menu posted outside was duplicated on a large, brightly colored chalkboard mounted on the wall, and from it we made our selections: falafel platter with hummus and pita, a “pitza” with veggies and feta, and a chicken kabob platter. As a last-second addition, we also requested an order of zucchini fries and baklava for dessert. We placed our order at the counter and paid before taking our seats at the only empty table in the room. Our food arrived shortly after, piping hot and plentiful. The falafel had a crunchy, golden brown crust, and was nestled inside a soft pita with lettuce and tomato. Alongside, there was a scoop of silky hummus, finished with a bit of oil, and a small salad. The chicken kabob was well-seasoned and cooked perfectly, similarly finished with hummus and salad on the side. The pizza, made with a pita in lieu of crust, was a great mix of Mediterranean flavors with olives, roasted red pepper, artichoke, and feta. Though it was a reasonable size, the falafel and kabob platters certainly offered significantly larger portions than the “pitza.” Our zucchini fries were also delicious – crisp outside, soft and luscious on the inside. Served with a little cooling tzatziki-style sauce, they were a perfect accompaniment to the meal.
But I have to say, for me, the really star of the meal was the baklava. Though I try to contain my sweet tooth, baklava is a rare treat that I don’t often see on menus. And for only $3.00 at Baba’s, it was a bargain. The filo layers were impossibly flaky, crumbling under the pressure of my fingers and held together only by the sticky, sweet butter and honey. The lower half of the slice was stuffed with chopped nuts and more honey, giving the dessert a little stability and substance against the fragile top layer. Cut into four petite triangles, it was the perfect after-lunch bite.
As we were leaving, we noticed several awards on the wall – various “Best of Baltimore” recognition plaques earned over the last few years. So maybe we’re just a bit behind the eight-ball here, and maybe the rest of you know about Baba’s already. But for those of you who don’t, you should. And when you go and discover what you’ve been missing all this time, make sure to order the baklava. After all, you live in the city and you’ll walk it off on the way home…right?