One of the most impressive facets of Warren County’s dining scene is its cultural diversity. From American to Italian, Mexican to Thai, Ohio’s Largest Playground offers visitors an endless array of ethnically-inspired eats that are sure to satisfy any meal-time craving.
Seeking something a little different, I decided to explore the area’s Mediterranean offerings–a decision that, oddly enough, led me to a strip mall in Mason, Ohio.
While its off-the-radar location had me expecting an underwhelming, Americanized dining experience, Mason’s Phoenician Taverna quickly reminded me how deceiving first impressions can be when it comes to restaurants. If it’s Mediterranean or Lebanese you’re craving, look no further.
Taking my trusty old friends at Yelp.com at their word, I kicked off my meal with a homemade hummus that was probably the best I have ever had. It was creamy and flavorful, and the oven-fresh pita that accompanied it was hot and steaming. I could have easily eaten the entire bowl, but used a little self-restraint to push onward to the next three courses.
Next came the Shankleesh: feta cheese with spices and herbs, onions, tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. I honestly wasn’t sure how to eat it at first, but my waiter kindly instructed me to mash it up and spread it on the pita bread. It’s the spices, I learned, that separate Lebanese from more generic forms of Mediterranean.
I ordered the Chicken Shawarma as an entree and learned that it was rotisserie, which–to me–means moist. Spreading a bit of their garlic whip on the meat, rice and everything else on my plate really made the flavor pop. There wouldn’t be any kissing for me that day as the garlic permeated the dish, but it was well worth it.
I figured no Mediterranean meal would be complete without baklava, so naturally I had to give it a try. Having sampled some terrific homemade Greek baklava in the past, I felt I had a good basis for comparison. The Lebanese version was a little less sweet, lighter in texture and gave off a hint of orange. Different, but absolutely delish!
Relish Modern Tapas takes its own twist on Mediterranean classics, serving up a variety of smaller gourmet-style dishes specifically designed to be shared in groups. It’s a far different atmosphere from both Phoenician Taverna and Remezo, but one that’s proven popular with locals and visitors alike.
Check out more of my Warren County dining adventures!
Historic & Hearty: Lunch at the Hammel House Inn
A Food Lover’s Guide to Can’t Miss Cuisine in Warren County
Fine Dining at Miami Valley Gaming
La Comedia Dinner Theatre: Warren County, Ohio