OPINION: Line up for Caravan Grill
As a college student, I’m always appreciative of cheap restaurants with dank food, especially those that cure hangovers. Caravan Grill, a small Middle Eastern restaurant just three miles from campus, has impeccably authentic food at a low price. An appetizer, two main dishes and two drinks can come out to $21.
Caravan Grill, located at 2825 N. Country Club Road, was opened about two months ago by a Lebanese family that also owns the Middle Eastern food store next door, Caravan Market. Their menu consists of food found in the region of Levantine (like Egypt) through Syria. The dishes are meat focused, offering differently prepared options of chicken, beef and lamb.
If you’ve had minimal experience ordering Middle Eastern food, then a little vocabulary is needed. Caravan Grill’s most popular plate is the Chicken Shawarma. Shawarma refers to the Levantine meat preparation. If you have ever had a gyro, or seen the large cone-shaped meat on a bar rotating near a stove, that’s a shawarma.
To understand the difference, a gyro is served the same across the board with the same meat and toppings on the same thin pita bread. A meat shawarma can have different meats and be served on different breads.
When you order any of the sandwiches, Caravan Grill offers two bread options: samoon and Iraqi pita. Samoon is thick and more like a diamond shaped roll. I had the chicken shawarma with the thick roll. The sandwich was stuffed with salty pickles, zahiti sauce and juicy seasoned chicken that isn’t spicy. I didn’t care for the samoon bread, as I felt the bread was too thick and masked the taste of the meat.
I also had a Shish Tawook, which is basically a chicken kebab. The meat is grilled on a stick, then pulled off and wrapped in your choice of bread. I chose the Iraqi pita, which I enjoyed much more. The pita was thin and warmed from the grill. It perfectly complimented the chicken shawarma with its easy-to-tear characteristics. The shawarma had a subtle lemon flavor taste on the chicken that blended well with the creaming tahini sauce.
Depending on how hungry you are, buying from the plate options is a better choice. Each plate comes with a side of rice, salad and hummus, and most cost around $9. If you aren’t wanting sides, then go with a sandwich, which by itself is very filling. Sandwiches cost around $6–$8.
I took home the other half of my Shish Tawook, which I heated up in the microwave and fed to my hungover friend the next day. After one bite, he said he miraculously felt better and immediately asked where I got the sandwich from. I can see why, with the tawook's perfectly seasoned meat and filling bread. It’s also a healthier option than most greasy, hangover cravings.
For vegetarians, Caravan Grill offers a Mediterranean salad or a falafel, ground chickpeas that are formed into balls and deep-fried. You can have the falafels, a sandwich or the plate with hummus, salad and rice. Their appetizers are all great vegetarian options, too. I had their Small Baba Ghanoush, which is eggplant based instead of chickpea. The appetizers are served with freshly baked slices of pita and samoon bread to dip with.
Caravan Grill does not have a liquor license but also hosts has a number of soft drinks, teas and Arabic coffee. I’m not a fan of the sour taste of Arabic coffee, so I tried an apple- and lemon-flavored carbonated malt beverage called Barbican. Of the two flavors, I really liked the apple, as it was slightly sweeter and had a bold green apple taste.
While waiting for my food to be prepared, I noticed a large number of customers picking up their take-out meals. They have a private parking lot, so it’s easy to park and grab your food. I’d recommend calling in your order beforehand to minimize the wait, especially if you’re going during lunchtime. The restaurant is quite small with a few tables inside as well as outside, so chances are you won’t be without a table.
Caravan Grill is an excellent place to go with friends, a casual date or even just take-out. The bread and meats are fresh, authentic and filling, all at a low price. The employees are really patient with first-timers who don’t understand the menu. And don't forget, it makes a great hangover cure as well.
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