TNT Diner

University Place’s date-worthy restaurant now open with a Mediterranean menu and full bar

Falafel, a dish of fried ground garbanzo beans, is one specialty at newly opened University Place Mediterranean Gyro Grill. The restaurant also has a location in Federal Way.
Falafel, a dish of fried ground garbanzo beans, is one specialty at newly opened University Place Mediterranean Gyro Grill. The restaurant also has a location in Federal Way.

University Place is a city that hoards the region’s best grocery stores, but it’s short on interesting dining options.

For now.

Things are getting better for diners in search of non-chain options.

Anthem Coffee and Tea is coming and so is ice cream cafe Bliss Small Batch Creamery in 2018. In the next month or so, Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse will restore the balance of the closure of Chinese restaurant Jade Palace (which still is in search of a new home).

And then there’s this promising dining news: Mediterranean Gyro Grill opened last week at The Village at Chambers Bay.

What’s different about Mediterranean Gyro Grill is its dual appeal to date-night diners and its approachable atmosphere that won’t intimidate families. Mediterranean Gyro Grill hosts a full cocktail bar with seating for 10, plus a stand-up piano tucked against a wall near the kitchen. Owner Jay Barbour plans to host belly dancers as he does at his Federal Way restaurant with the same name.

That restaurant opened four years ago. Before that, Barbour and his brother operated another restaurant, which his brother now runs in Des Moines.

Here’s a first-bite tour during the restaurant’s opening week. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.

MGG inerior
The dining room of Mediterranean Gyro Grill in University Place. Sue Kidd

Dining room: Soaring floor-to-ceiling windows bring light into the 75-seat space decorated in saturated Mediterranean tones with wrought iron accents and glitz from shimmering mirrors and dangling, colorful orbs. Diners walk straight into the dining room from either door. Choose a seat and table service follows.

Table seating spans the far left wall with a cushy banquette. Two-and-four-seat tables reach across the middle of the room with seven tall tables seating four each snuggled against the bar.

The food: Covering a broad region surrounding the Mediterranean with Greek, Lebanese, Italian and Syrian cuisine. Barbour’s heart is in the lamb dishes, which his mother taught him to cook.

The menu: Fans of the Federal Way location will notice that a more sophisticated location brings a price hike of a buck or two, yet the food is still a deal based on quality and portions.

dolmades 2
Dolmades are filled with lemon flavored rice at the University Place Mediterranean Gyro Grill. Sue Kidd

Dietary needs: Abundant gluten-free choices marked. Meat-free diners, look for the (v) symbol and ask about meat-free options.

First: Get started with meze-style appetizers of baba ganoush ($9.99), plus hummus ($9.99), dolmades ($5.99), spanakopita ($4.99), falafel (99 cents) and meat-filled kibbeh ($2.99). Eight salads range from roasted cauliflower with tahini ($11.99) to one built with gyro meat ($13.99). Also find soups ($6.99 to $8.99), wings ($13.99) and flatbreads ($6.99).

For lunch: Served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shawarma with a drink and fries ($9.99), gyro sandwich ($9.99), a gyro or chicken shawarma plate ($14.99), plus pizza ($7.99), a gyro salad ($9.99), beef-and-lamb burger or cheesesteak ($9.99).

Lamb shawarma
A platter of lamb shawarma with salad, rice and pita from Mediterranean Gyro Grill. Sue Kidd

Dinner plates: Chicken or beef souvlaki ($18.99/$19.99), beef, lamb or chicken shawarma ($19.99), gyro rice plate ($16.99), Beef-and-lamb or combo kebab ($19.99/$24.99), lamb chops ($22.99), lamb shank ($17.99), moussaka ($17.99), grilled salmon ($15.99), falafel ($16.99), hummus ($17.99) and fried cauliflower ($11.99).

Bargain dinner: Sandwiches include gyro ($9.99), shawarma ($11.99/$12.99), falafel ($9.99), baba ganoush ($7.99), a beef-and-lamb burger ($13.99), plus pizzas ($5.99 to $8.99). Add $4.99 to add a side and drink.

For kids: Six choices ($4.99 to $8.99) include gyro pizza ($7.99), fish and chips ($9.99) and chicken tenders ($7.99).

For a starter: Don’t miss spinach and feta filled spanakopita turnovers ($4.99) and the grape leaves stuffed with lemon-flavored rice ($5.99).

combo kebab 2
A combo kebab plate with steak, lamb and chicken from the newly opened University Place Mediterranean Gyro Grill. Sue Kidd

Try these dinner plates: The combo kebab platter provided a complete overview of the grill with flame-licked steak that arrived medium rare (as requested) flanked by a garlicky ground lamb kebab, plus grilled, marinated chicken drizzled with tahini ($24.99, built for sharing).

Falafel discs of ground garbanzo beans arrived crunchy fried and also topped with tahini ($16.99). The gyro rice platter was enough shaved ground beef-and-meat for two ($16.99). Lamb shawarma also was shaved, with sizzled edges ($19.99).

Creamy hummus with cucumbers and pita was included with three of the dinner platters on a first-bite visit of Mediterranean Gyro Grill. Sue Kidd

Platters were brimming with extras beyond the meat. Nutty tahini or creamy yogurt sauce topped the meats. Plates came with salad, either a garden salad topped with sweet, marinated onions and tomatoes and a fluffy toupee of feta or a parsley-heavy tabbouleh with an astringent vinaigrette. The falafel, gyro and combo kebab dinners were plated with creamy hummus. All were served with spice-dusted pita wedges, plus buttery rice pilaf. The combo and gyro platter also came with a surprise of a buttery bulgur pilaf, too.

Mediterranean Gyro Grill

University Place: 3555 Market Place W, University Place; 253-314-5122. Lunch and dinner daily.

Federal Way: 34024 Hoyt Road SW, Federal Way; 253-874-1144.