A Trio of Mediterranean Dining

Just when you thought you couldn't possibly get any shawarma, right?

Abo Youssef (Photo by John Anderson)

I blame high school geography class for making it so I can't think "Mediterranean" without also thinking, automatically, "the Bosporus." That's aka the Strait of Istanbul, that Bosporus, of course; and it's the natural waterway forming part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia. But it does us little good to know that, and it's irrelevant to this trio of eateries – except that we're talking about the Mediterranean here, and how the culinary cultures therein are being expressed in local venues that you really should know about if you like good food.

But the Mediterranean Sea laps up against many shores, so there's also the Middle East and the northern coast of Africa to consider, as well as – oh, you get the idea. And right now we're recommending these three outposts of culinary traditions from around those parts, each in a different neighborhood of Austin.

Devil May Care

500 W. Sixth, 512/767-6052

Here's where Mediterranean cuisine may well reach its apotheosis, as chef Jonathon Sterling is doing things with beef and lamb and veggies and grains that take everything on the menu to that "next level" people always talk about. I could go on, wiping the drool that gathers about my lips from just thinking of the excellent meals I've enjoyed here (the hangar steak shawarma, the lamb ribs with that pomegranate glaze), but will only mention that I'm not much for falafel, right? Because chickpeas? Except that the falafel at Devil May Care is approximately half-chickpea, half-potato, and results in such exquisitely fried morsels of yum – crispy on the outside, moist and almost creamy on the inside – that suddenly I'm wanting a falafel subscription to get maybe a dozen of the things delivered every day of my life. And that's the humble falafel ball, FFS; imagine the commensurate elevation of what's already fancier in such cuisine. And Devil May Care's bar program is of similar panache. That cocktail called the Chrysalis, with its Irish gin, butterfly pea flower syrup, ginger syrup, and lemon, for instance? Liquid perfection. But here's the thing: Everything about this place is as snazzy as the food. It's so gorgeously appointed inside (and on its open-air rooftop terrace) that it makes the building's former incarnation as Bess Bistro seem pedestrian by comparison. What an elegantly curated, international jet-set vibe, tell you what. Whether for the food or the design aesthetic or the excellent service, this is where you take people when you want to impress them like whoa.

Photo by John Anderson


4700 W. Guadalupe #9, 512/900-8200

Now this is more of a working journo's typical speed: No fancy digs here, just a bright clean store in the Triangle (next to Mandola's, no less) with a glorious array of noms that will satisfy your palate and your guts without taking your wallet to the cleaners. Whether you're getting the lamb burger (with baby arugula, feta cheese, pickled red onions and cucumber, and doused with tzatziki sauce) or that meltingly tender Mediterranean-style salmon steak or just a big bowl of depression-thwarting lemon chicken orzo soup, you're gonna end up happily stuffed. Oh, and, reader, you may be more familiar with Hyde Park Bar & Grill's Horseshoe entrée, yes? That big ol' pile of ground beef covered with the beloved stalwart's famous fries and other fixins? Please note that MezzeMe has something very like a Mediterranean version of that savory belly-buster: the Deluxe Doner Fries. Mmmm, you're welcome.

Abo Youssef

2101 Manor Rd., 512/815-6804

Or maybe you want the kind of gyros and shawarmas and salads you might encounter at a cart along an avenue in some urban hub like Morocco? That kind of deep, flavorful, street-level goodness, dished up like it was coming from a food truck? Well, how about an actual food truck, then – a bright Airstream trailer, as helmed by indefatigable chef Samir on Manor Road? Abo Youssef is in a parking lot across from Thunderbird Coffee, in the middle of a restaurant row that boasts a crowd of brick-and-mortars offering excellent fare – and still this trailer draws in the aficionados with a variety of spicy wraps (and full plates) of beef and lamb and chicken, a tempting tetralogy of desserts, and, OMG, that fresh lime-and-mint juice to wash it all down with. Say, isn't this place a three-time Austin Chronicle First Plates winner? You bet your Bosporus it is, citizen.

The Best of Austin: Restaurants ballot is here! Nominations can be made now through Monday, July 18, at midnight. Vote now at vote.austinchronicle.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Food Reviews
Restaurant Review: Birdie’s
Restaurant Review: Birdie's
A neighborhood restaurant, for some

Melanie Haupt, May 6, 2022

Restaurant Review: JewBoy Sub Shop
Restaurant Review: JewBoy Sub Shop
Remembrance of subs past

Melanie Haupt, Feb. 18, 2022

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
Matt’s El Rancho Turns 70, the MOIC Is a Speer Carrier, Ski Shores Reopens, Huckleberry Anchors at Still Austin, Desert Door Reveals the Pollinator, and More
Matt’s El Rancho Turns 70, the MOIC Is a Speer Carrier, Ski Shores Reopens, Huckleberry Anchors at Still Austin, Desert Door Reveals the Pollinator, and More
All the news that’s fit to get your taste buds quivering

June 29, 2022

Five Gallery Shows for Your Summer Eyes
Five Gallery Shows for Your Summer Eyes
Indoor visual art brings the light, eschews the heat

June 24, 2022


Devil May Care, MezzeMe, Abo Youssef, shawarma, gyro, falafel

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle