Cedar's Mediterranean and Italian Grill

904 College St., Bastrop; 512/321-7808
Tue.-Thu., 11am-9pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-9:30pm; Sun., 11am-3pm

Cedar's Grill is a surprising find. Located on the westbound frontage road of Highway 71, from the outside it resembles nothing so much as a mean bar, sloughing along in a dilapidated building in a dying town. Once inside, it is clear that the place has pretensions to being a nice restaurant, though the decor has obviously been done on an extremely tight budget. The owners are Raymond Keyrouz and Khalil Younes, two very nice gentlemen from Lebanon. This is their place, and they are doing food in Bastrop that is a cut above. Half of the menu is Lebanese, and that is where Cedar's really shines. The hummus, dolmas, baba ghanoush, Greek salad, tabbouleh, kafta, and Mediterranean specials are fresh, made from scratch, and excellent. The Italian half of the menu is not bad either. Mama's Chicken Sophia, a fresh chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella and artichoke hearts and topped with a divine pine nut sauce, is particularly good. A big favorite of both patrons and the staff, this dish is a definite winner. The marinara-based Italian items are more pedestrian. The nightly specials cannot go unmentioned; this is where the two men, who take turns being chef in the kitchen, get to cut loose with their skill and creativity. The specials quickly sell out every night and feature dishes such as grilled fresh trout, served on a bed of wilted spinach with a lemon cream sauce, and a New York strip smothered in a Cabernet and mushroom demi-glace.

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