A starter plate of hummus and Falafel at Café Sababa.
A starter plate of hummus and Falafel at Café Sababa.

There are close to 10,000 restaurants in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Most fly under the radar relying on word of mouth or online “review” sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor for their advertising and clientele. It’s our goal in 2015 to visit more of these “mom and pop” places, particularly those that are in the communities that the INtown and Reporter Newspapers serve. If you know of a restaurant in your community that you’d like us to visit, send an email to TastingIntown@AtlantaINtownPaper.com.

We kicked off our New Year’s quest with lunch at Café Sababa. Located in an easily overlooked strip shopping center in Dunwoody, Café Sababa has been open since 2010. “Sababa” is a slang term in Hebrew and Arabic that loosely means “no worries” or “it’s all good” or “cool.”

The small, rectangular, tile-floored space is done in earth tones with local, “for sale” artwork adorning the walls. It’s a popular place and there’s often a wait, but our timing was good and we immediately snagged a table.

A server quickly brought menus, recited the day’s specials and took our drink orders. It’s a family run operation that’s friendly, fast and efficient.

Sababa specializes in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Chef/owner Doni Tamli is a native of Israel and has over 25 years in the restaurant and catering business.

We started with an appetizer of Falafel and hummus. The ground chickpea balls were hot and crispy with a soft center. They were served with a side of tehina sauce, which is the Middle Eastern name for what we call tahini, a mixture of tahini, which is sesame paste, along with garlic and lemon juice. The hummus, another riff on the venerable garbanzo bean, was creamy smooth with a generous pore of olive oil in the center. Warm pita wedges served as the perfect utensils to get every last morsel.

The daily special appetizer was Potato Latkes laced with dill and served with a tzatziki sauce. They were an interesting play on the classic Hanukkah dish although the “latke purist” in our party did not care for the dill.

We ordered the Lamb Burger, the Chicken Shawarma Wrap and the Gyro Platter.

The freshly ground Lamb Burger was served on a grilled ciabatta roll with lettuce and tomato. A roasted red pepper and garlic aioli accompanied the burger and made the dish, supplying just enough flavor and moisture to shore up the slightly dry, yet tasty, burger.

The side of tabouleh salad was the right ratio of parsley to bulgur wheat with the parsley playing the starring role. Mint and lemon made the dish quite refreshing.

The Chicken Shawarma Wrap was a pita filled with tender, well-seasoned chicken, lettuce, cucumber, tomato and tehina sauce. “Shawarma” typically refers to the method of cooking on a vertical rotating spit. While this version had avoided a spit, its preparation still resulted in a juicy and flavorful bird. Shawarma devotees might miss the lack of garlic sauce in this version but it was still very good. A small Greek salad with lots of Feta cheese accompanied the wrap.

The Gyro Platter was a generous portion of Gyro-style lamb served with warm pita wedges. The meat was moist, tender and nicely spiced. It also came with a salad of Romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato and Feta cheese. Tzatziki sauce was on the side; Sababa’s version is thicker than most.

How was Café Sababa? It was sababa, dude!

Café Sababa is located at 4639-D N. Shallowford Road, Dunwoody, 30338. 678-705-8268 or cafesababa.net.

Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot, gourmet cook and food lover. Send feedback to atlantafoodwriter@gmail.com

Art Huckabee

Art Huckabee is a writer and pilot based in metro Atlanta.