MM's Gyros & Spuds
24 Temple st., Hartford
860-796-5589 and http://www.mmgyrosspudsinhartford.com
Like most cuisines, Middle Eastern food is great when it's done well and disappointing when botched. Luckily, this low-profile café, hidden away on a short side street off Main in downtown Hartford, has the right recipe — good food, big portions, low prices.
THE VIBE: The storefront café has a sparse, but pleasant, dining room with cream colored walls, dark wood tables and low lighting. The restaurant's owners, a husband and wife team, work the grill and counter and overload customers' plates and cartons with their creations. Most customers grab their food to go, so the place can get busy at lunchtime, but things move along fairly quickly. (The street has metered parking. If you can't find a spot, you can pull into the pay parking lot on the corner.)
Diners order food at the counter. Items are displayed in glass cases, so you can pick, point and choose your meal. Be warned — everything looks great, so it's easy to get carried away with your selections. Portions are huge, so split an order with a friend or plan on leftovers. (In spite of the restaurant's name, the one thing you won't see is "spuds." Aside from some roasted yams, we didn't spot a single potato.)
THE FOOD: If the words "hummus," falafel," and "tabouli" are music to your ears, you're going to be a MM's regular. Each of these simple dishes is done well — as are the sauces, or "dips, as they're called here. You can choose hummus, barbeque, ketchup, tzatziki or homemade hot sauce as a condiment for your wrap. Ignore all but the tzatziki. The creamy sauce, made with cucumber, yogurt and garlic, is a gateway drug to a Middle Eastern food addiction. I know, because once I tasted it, I poured it on everything.
On the meat side of the menu, choices include chicken and lamb. Most of the menu items are available as wraps or plates. Order a wrap, and you'll get your choice packed into pita bread with lettuce, tomato, and onions. Choose a plate and you'll get a larger portion, along with salad, rice and pita.
Non-meat eaters have plenty of choices. Veggie offerings include vine dolmades leaves (grape leaves stuffed with rice), hummus and falafel. The golf-ball sized orbs of ground chickpeas and spices have a crunchy crust and a smooth, almost creamy interior. Pile them into a warm pita with lettuce, tomato, hummus and tatziki and you've got a just-about-perfect lunch.
Sides, such as extra falafel balls, boreak (spinach, feta and mozzarella stuffed bread), samsa, (ground beef and onions wrapped in a flaky pastry) and hummus can be ordered a la carte — and you should take extra to go. Those stuffed breads make a terrific midnight snack.
THE BILL: Just about everything on this menu is under $10. Gyros wraps — both meat and vegetarian — are $6.50; gyros plates, which include salad, rice and pita bread, are $7.50 and salads are $6.96, ($7.95 if you add chicken). Sides, such as falafel, couscous or hummus range from $2 to $3.99 and desserts, limited to baklava and fried baklava, are $3.
THE PARTICULARS: Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Sundays.
THE VERDICT: This no-frills spot has some of the Capitol area's tastiest and inexpensive Middle Eastern food.Copyright © 2015, CT Now