Restaurant Review–Mezza Lebanese

If you’ve been on a diet for any length of time you know eating out sucks.  Just how much grilled chicken or broiled fish with steamed vegetables can a person eat?  Diets like Weight Watchers make is sound easy, but it’s not.

I find eating out as a vegan a little more fun than the regular dieters’ approaches because it promotes more variety.  First, I’m always looking for off-the-beaten-path restaurants to try so that when someone says, “Where do you want to go?” I have an answer.  Being able to name some place that nobody’s tried before heightens my dinner companions’ interest.  Second, vegan-friendly restaurants often are some other nationality or ethnicity.  Again, I feel hip when I’m saying something like, “Let’s try that new Lebanese place downtown.”  Instead of answering like the perpetual dieter, “I’ve got to go someplace that won’t ruin my diet.”  (You’ll hear more about her and her diets later, I promise.)  Third, when I go to a restaurant that’s vegan-friendly and ask about vegan meals, I sound environmentally conscious and cool instead of like a weight-obsessed middle-aged buzz kill.

So, yesterday I got to suggest “that new Lebanese place downtown” for lunch.  I like Lebanese, Moroccan, and other various Mediterranean restaurants for vegan-friendly meals.   This place, called Mezza, was small but warm and friendly.  Our service was great, and the menu was very clearly labeled with the vegan and vegetarian options, a feature I appreciate since I’m a vegan novice.

We ordered a falafel wrap, which was probably the best falafel I’ve ever had, baba ghanouj, hummus, fattoush, which was good but nothing special, and tabouli.  The tabouli was unique and wonderful.  It was very light on the bulgur wheat and heavy on the fresh parsley.  Plus, it had a tiny hint of allspice that gave the salad a deeper dimension and made it really play of the other foods on the table.  The baba ghanouj, on the other hand, was less impressive.  Good baba ghanouj starts with flame-roasted eggplant.  You have to taste the flames in order for the stuff to be good.  Otherwise, it’s like eating fancy baby food.  It could have used a little spice and/or mint for dimension too.  Food should stimulate all the different parts of your tongue and have a start and finish like a good wine.  Alas, it seems the hummus had all the heat, and a little too much if you ask me.  Both the hummus and baba ghanouj were served with additional olive oil and pita wedges, but that didn’t save them.  We spent $26 and some change on food (without tip or drinks), and satisfied our curiosity about that new place downtown.

All in all, if you’re in the Columbia, SC area and looking for some vegan food, you could do worse than Mezza.  If you’re sharing your lunch or dinner hour with a carnivorous companion, you’ll both find something you want.  I’ll go back sometime and try the falafel and tabouli again for sure, but I’ll keep looking for really good Lebanese food elsewhere for the time being.

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