Shish Mediterranean Grill: A gem on Grand Ave, St Paul

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I was reading comments online in response to my post that I was looking for Mediterranean food in St Paul. I guess most people were as ignorant as I was since they were ticking off well-known names everwhere but St. Paul. I had to observe that I’m well aware that the Twin Cities is very rich with nice places that serve Mediterranean food. I’m especially focused on St. Paul where the surface appearance is that this food doesn’t do well there. My search might reinforce that conclusion, but it would be premature to say so.

This is all preface to a visit I made to Shish Mediterranean Grill. It is at 1668 Grand Avenue, close to Macalester, a few doors east of the Ace Hardware. It belongs in the small cafe category (as opposed to places like Khan’s Mongolian Barbecue or Olive Garden). The interior is nicely appointed, but not overdone as I felt Mai Village was. I’d say Emily’s Lebanese Deli is an apt comparison in size and décor. Along one wall are a bunch of large photos of Jerusalem. The floor is finished wood. There is an order counter and a glass case mostly filled with sweet goodies.

You can see the full menu at http://www.shishongrand.com/ There was so much, it was a bit daunting to eliminate all the things I wanted but couldn’t put on one order. I can remedy that as I make frequent trips back. I settled on spinach pie for an appetizer. And dark roast coffee and a garbanzo burger and salad for the entree. Sat down to look at the environment, drink my coffee, and watch one of the staff squeeze oranges with this manual device with a long handle for leverage. They brought my spinach pie right away. It was a saucer with three spinach pies and a couple of slices of feta. Now, my experience of spinach pie is mostly at Emily’s where they are large and baked. These were appetizer size and fried. They were very hot and crispy. That was a change of pace, but I’ll never abandon Emily’s big pies. It is the filling, in the end, that makes spinach pie mandatory for me.

After I finished that, it was only a couple of minutes till the plate with the burger and salad came. The dressing was served on the side. Also there was a spoonful of tahini on the other side. The salad was fresh greens, red onions, chopped tomato and cubed cucumber. Such a nice combination. The burger was full of all kinds of flavors. I really want to find my own vegan burger to make at home from organic ingredients. And if it tasted like the Shish garbanzo burger, I could be pretty happy.

Shish is the kind of place I was looking for. But it really is designed for its location. It opens from 7am to 11pm 365 days a year. And you can get all this tasty stuff in a breakfast. I was kind of giddy when I discovered that. I’ve had “interesting” variations on the American breakfast. But I’d give any of it up for a Mediterranean breakfast. The guy behind the counter said his favorite was the Jerusalem breakfast. I made sure to look at the breakfast menu before I left. When I read the components, I had to agree it sounded better than perfect. Ground beef seasoned with Mediterranean spices, hummus, tabouli, falafel, feta, olives, pepperoncini, and pita bread. What a feast to wake up to!!!

So this place fully qualifies for my criteria of a hidden gem. Some people have indeed found it, but I don’t think the mobs have overrun it yet. I don’t want to be selfish, but I just hope it prospers without having lines out the door.

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