An Erieite Appetite: Casablanca Grill

A taste of the Middle East and Mediterranean is only a 10-minute drive from Mercyhurst College at Casablanca Grill, 2174 W. 8th St.

From Syrian to Egyptian to Greek dishes, Casablanca has a wide variety of meals for every taste. Casablanca purchases its meats and vegetables from the farmer’s market so the food is fresh and homemade.

On a Friday evening, four friends and I called ahead to make dinner reservations because Casablanca recommended doing so on its Website.

Upon arrival, I had difficulty finding parking spaces because very few existed. I nearly took out the front of my car trying to park into a space near the entrance.

At first glance, Casablanca is a small, Middle Eastern-styled restaurant with deep red-painted walls and ornate table cloths. After further observation, I discover Moroccan fabrics and Arabic writing on a piece of artwork on the wall.

We were immediately brought to our table by a hostess and given menus. Most of the items in the menu were foreign to me; however, one of my friends was able to give me guidance because he had been to Casablaca’s previously.

While we looked at our menus, our waiter took our drink orders, which included two Mango Fruit Cocktails and water. Other drink items include specialty hot teas, Turkish coffee, soft drinks and flavored sparkling non-alcoholic drinks called Lazizas. Casablanca’s does not serve alcoholic drinks but will allow its customers to bring in their own alcoholic beverages.

Similar to a smoothie, the Mango Fruit Cocktails were so sweet and delicious; my friend remarked she’d return to Casablanca’s just for the drink.

Deciding we were going to have a pre-Thanksgiving feast, we ordered three appetizers to share as well as our own meals.

For starters, we chose Fatayer B’Jibine, a flaky pastry filled with blended cheeses; Falafel, deep fried vegetable patties made of garbanzo beans and Middle Eastern spices topped with tahini sauce and parsley; and Sambousick, flaky pastry filled with spiced meat, tomato and onions.

Since I traveled to Greece this past summer, I wanted to test the Greek Salad for my main course. Casablanca’s Greek Salad includes tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, onion, and feta cheese topped with special dressing and dolma, grape leaves stuffed with Egyptian rice, lemon, garlic and herbs.

My friends chose Couscous, a traditional Moroccan meal of sweet vegetables and meat, slow-cooked with Moroccan spices and served over Couscous wheat pasta; Mucklouba, a dish of eggplant, red rice and tender ground beef topped with Casablanca signature spices; and the Mediterranean Platter, a baked flakey pastry filled with rice, meat and peas served in combination with a crispy shell of cracked wheat stuffed with ground beef and onions.

All entrees are served with soup or salad and can be made vegetarian. Since I had never tried lentil soup before, my friends gave me a spoonful. Fresh and delectable, I was impressed with the lentil soup and would order it if I returned.

Shortly after the soups arrived, our appetizers were delivered at a staggered pace. First, the Fatayer B’Jibine, then the Falafel, and finally, the Sambousick arrived. The fatayer b’jibine was my favorite because it was gooey and flaky though the other two were just as delicious.

Before we could finish our appetizers, our waiter delivered our meals. I noticed immediately my Greek salad did not have cucumbers as stated on the menu. However, after eating all those appetizers I was extremely satiated and unwilling to complain.

I enjoyed the special olive oil dressing and the two dolmas on top because they were as tasty as the ones made in Greece.

Our experience at Casablanca Grill was a much needed escape from mundane, college, pre-made meals. The food was fresh, homemade and flavorful and the atmosphere was relaxing enough to make customers feel as if they were in the Middle East.

Quality: 5 out of 5
Price: Moderately expensive