Sahara Mediterranean Cafe
Recently opened on the little strip of shops at 51st and Oak, Saraha is very popular with the UMKC crowd. Adding a bit more ethnicity to the standard choices of pizza, subs and Chinese on that block, students have been flocking here for hummus, gryo sandwiches, shawarma, and kabobs.
Sahara is in the old Russell Stovers store, and I think they kept the same commercial ceiling lighting that existed before, which does nothing to enhance the restaurant’s rather drab appearance. The owners took a stab at decorating, using a bright saffron to freshen the walls and hanging a few ornaments, but the decor is definitely more suited to a quick meal or grab ‘n go rather than a relaxing dining experience.
Diners order at a counter from a huge cardboard wall menu that has pictures of all the offerings, and a server brings the food to your table a la Spin Pizza’s model.
But, the food’s decent. Plentiful and fresh, if not exciting. We tried the lentil soup, which was more flavorful than it looked. The appetizer platter featured falafel, hummus, baba ghannouj (eggplant dip), dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and pita. The baba ghannouj was our favorite, though the falafel’s inside was light, almost airy, a pleasing contrast to the fried exterior.
Saraha is a welcome addition to the area. It will fit student budgets and offers a healthy alternative to dorm food. I know some businessmen who also enjoy it for the large portions and quick service. But a cozy date night? Not so much.