Automat

Mediterranean/Middle Eastern

Taco Arriba & Chelo Kabob

2525 W. Anderson (Northcross Mall Food Court), 459-4595
Mon-Sat, noon-9pm; Sun, noon-6pm

One-stop shopping -- Persian cuisine and tacos at the Northcross Mall. Named for the national dish of Iran, Chelo Kabob is a place to people-watch and share with a friend a platter of beef, chicken, or ground beef kabobs with tomatoes, flatbread, cheese, onions, and herbs. Or try the specials, including Tuesday's Stewed Beef with Eggplant -- richly spiced (saffron, cinnamon) chunks of lean beef with whole Japanese eggplant, nestled atop a bed of steamed rice with yellow split peas and sour grapes.

Phoenicia Bakery and Deli

2912 S. Lamar, 447-4444
Mon-Fri, 9:30am-7pm; Sat, 9:30am-6pm
4701 Burnet, 323-6770
Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm; Sat, 9am-6pm

Falafel, roast chicken pocket, schwarma, gyro, and prosciutto sub: These sandwiches on fresh bread are the top five reasons to visit Phoenicia, our favorite bakery, imported foods store, and deli combo. Then there's the fragrantly spiced confections of another culture, nutty delights such as the turtle-shaped, sugar-dusted, pistachio-filled cookie called maamoul, or the tangy little honey-bomb treats. And that principle about every action having an equal and opposite reaction? Balancing the joy of seeing a Central Market down south is the pleasure of having a Phoenicia Bakery up north -- check out the new location on Burnet Road.

Longhorn Po-Boys

2901-B Medical Arts, 495-9228
Mon-Fri, 11am-9pm; Sat, 11am-5pm
906 Congress, 476-7735
Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm

For a roast beef or turkey sub, this can be your place. But Longhorn Po-Boys is more than just that; it also pushes the envelope of the regular old American sandwich shop by including Mediterranean specialties like falafel -- a chickpea paste spiced and fried to perfection and rolled into a flatbread -- and the cinnamon-spiced ground beef and nut bundles called kibbeh. In the newer, downtown location, customers can enjoy a different home-style Lebanese lunch special every day. Stop in Mondays to try the Sheikh El Mihshi, eggplant topped with ground beef, onion, tomato, on a bed of rice.


Ted's Greek Corner

417 Congress, 472-4494
Mon-Thu, 10:30am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 10:30am-10pm; Sun, noon-8pm

Ted's was one of the first downtown restaurants to stay open late, serving what Austin used to be sorely lacking in: food from the mother country. Be it gyros -- sandwiches with meat shaved from a spit onto fresh flatbread -- or buttery, flaky spanakopita (forget the butter and cheese components, that spinach will make you strong), or maybe even hamburgers and French fries, Ted's is a popular, diner-ish lunch spot for those in the know.

Malaga

208 W. Fourth, 236-8020
Mon-Thu, 5pm-midnight; Fri, 5pm-2am; Sat, 6pm-2am

Named for a city on the coast of Southern Spain, this distinctive tapas bar overlooking the courtyard of Cedar Street has become a warehouse district favorite since its inception in 1998. Knowledgeable servers bring you simple, lovely fare based on Spanish snacks -- herbed olives, marinated vegetables, fruit plates -- and a selection of Spanish hams and cheese complement the leather-clad list of wines from around the world, available by the glass, bottle, or flight.

Kismet Cafe

24th & San Antonio, 236-1811
Daily, 11am-9pm

Sandwiches at Kismet are a great deal for students on the run: savory, filling, and cheap -- all run around $3.50. Try the kafta kebob, a pita sandwich with lean ground beef and parsley, assertively seasoned and complemented by cool lettuce and tomato, and a lemony tahini dressing, or the gyro and schwarma sandwiches. Other offerings include the tabouli, overloaded with fresh herbs and dressed lightly witholive oil, or the kibbe and falafel -- both fresh and greaseless.


Oasis Mediterranean Cafe and Pizza

14735 Bratton, Ste. 105, 251-5777
Mon-Thu, 5-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-11pm; Sun, 11am-10pm

Though it used to be a pizzeria, the Oasis has added delightful Iranian specialties to the menu. Start with fresh, tangy crumbled feta, biting radish slices, green onion sprigs, and breath-freshening parsley garnishing a basket of hot, yeasty flatbread. Ghormeh Sabzi ($7.99) is a comfortable stew of spinach leaves stewed with kidney beans and chunks of tender, flaky beef, and an herb we think is turmeric. Kabob plates are another Iranian option, with tender meats, gorgeous rice, and lightly charred vegetables. And if the kids won't have it, order them up a Mega Roni Pizza.

Ararat

111 E. North Loop, 419-1692
Tues-Sun, 5-11pm; Thursday nights: bellydancing

Ararat is all ethnic, all the time, with Kurdish, Persian, Armenian, Arabic, and Turkish delights in a casual but beautiful presentation. Try earthenware plates of grilled beef, lamb, or chicken, dressed with both yogurt and tomato sauces, herbs, and turmeric-yellow rice, or chunks of chicken marinated then broiled, with vegetables, bulghur, and cool yogurt sauce. Ararat also serves vegetarian dishes and generally offers a killer fish special. Call to find out when the bellydancing's on, and reserve the low, round table for six. And don't forget to BYOB.

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