The Takeaway: Tabooleh is a great Mediterranean takeout option

Tabooleh, 210 2nd Ave, Coralville — via Tabooleh on Facebook

Like many during this pandemic, my boyfriend and I have a lot of time on our hands and are spending 90 percent of it at home. One way we’ve been breaking up the sameness of every day is by ordering takeout and delivery from restaurants we always meant to try but for some reason never got around to. These meals are standing in for travel, for dinners with friends, for dipping into a coffee shop on a whim during a downtown stroll. They’re placeholders for all the things we didn’t get to do this year and aren’t sure when we’ll do again. So it’s not unusual to find us on Chomp’s website scrolling through their list of restaurants, looking for one of those hitherto forgotten establishments.

That’s how we rediscovered Tabooleh. We’ve driven past it on the strip dozens of times and the sign with the fez-wearing mustachioed face made from the two Os in the name always drew my eye.

The restaurant was opened in 2018 by Yasser Gaber and Rania Basyony, longtime friends who are originally from Egypt. The menu is pan-Mediterranean, offering dishes from many countries in the region, including Greece, Morocco, Lebanon and Egypt. The restaurant also houses a grocery store that offers Middle Eastern grocery items. In non-pandemic, dine-in times, Tabooleh offers a rotating buffet, but they also have an extensive takeout menu available for carryout and delivery.

Tiffani Green/Little Village

We chose to have our meal delivered via Chomp and ordered through the app. With so many options, many of which we’d never had before, it was truly difficult to make a decision. We ended up getting the meat combo, which included gyro meat, beef kabab, chicken shawarma and beef kofta and came with a side of rice for $19.99. We also ordered moussaka ($14), side orders of pita bread (.99) and tzatziki sauce (.50) and a dessert called basboussa ($4.99). Both the meat combo and the moussaka also came with a choice of soup or salad and we ordered one of each.

The food arrived at our door about 30 minutes after ordering, so everything was still piping hot. The portions were huge, so much so that two days later, I’m still eating leftovers for lunch. The meat combo offered more than enough of each of the four proteins for two people to split. The chicken shawarma was seasoned with turmeric and herbs, the slices of beef kabab were thick, juicy and perfectly cooked. The beef kofta, which consisted of ground beef and herbs formed into something resembling a sausage without a casing, was one of our favorites, featuring a fresh, herbal flavor due to generous amounts of parsley. The gyro meat was tender and delicious and we used the extra pita and tzatziki to make mini gyros out of it. The soup that came with the combo was creamy and mildly spicy with lots of coriander flavor.

Tabooleh’s basboussa — Tiffani Green/Little Village

The meat combo alone would have been enough to satisfy, but having had moussaka many years ago when Cedar Rapids had a Greek restaurant, I was eager to try it again. It was made up of layers of spiced ground beef, eggplant and tomato sauce and was topped off with melted cheese. The eggplant was tender enough to cut easily with a fork and the sauce was especially delicious; the spices used to flavor it really brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes. Both the moussaka and the meat combo came with generous servings of long-grain white rice that had been seasoned with whole cloves and grilled hot peppers.

Last but not least was the basboussa. A cake made of semolina and yogurt, it had a texture reminiscent of cornbread and was topped with candied almonds. It was sweet and simple and really good with coffee the next day.

Tabooleh is an excellent choice if you’re ready to venture into a lesser known culinary tradition or if you’re just in the mood for a great gyro. And with fast and easy delivery available, it couldn’t be simpler to break up the monotony of your COVID isolation and your dinner routine.

Presented by Chomp

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