When I sampled the offerings of Emmaus' True Blue Mediterranean Cafe not long after it opened three years ago, I discovered a source for one of my favorite cuisines close to home. Now there's an outpost of this restaurant in Historic Bethlehem, which resulted in a sampling sojourn further afield.
Bethlehem's True Blue opened about a month ago in quarters formerly filled by Petra, another Mediterranean-themed eatery. Renovations have transformed the restaurant into a truly True Blue experience.
The walls, painted bold blue, are dense with saturated color. Black trim gives the color its edge (pun intended): The sharp contrast yields a smart sensibility with urbane style. Ceiling molding adds the touch of a more gracious time, and mauve chairs, partnered with black tables, bring points of relief to the electric combination.
Fare at Bethlehem's True Blue mirrors offerings at the Emmaus location, featuring Mediterranean standards such as fattoush, baba ghanoush, gyros, hummus and tabbouleh, plus more.
The long list of specialty espresso drinks available at the Emmaus True Blue, however, is not offered at the Bethlehem outpost, which gives this enterprise a more serious dining tone rather than the casual coffee shop ambience of the original eatery.
A shared order of grape leaves ($5.99) was a good starter. The tender rolls had a pleasant edge of flavor, no doubt thanks to the beef, lamb and rice filling that had been cooked in lemon juice. That brightness was enhanced by True Blue's tasty "lemonaize," a saucy combination of lemon, mayonnaise and Mediterranean seasonings.
Grilled kabobs — lamb ($17.99) and chicken ($16.99) — featured marinated meat and vegetables, charred and smoky. Both the lamb and chicken were tender with embedded marinade flavor, and the veggies still had bite. Perfectly cooked and seasoned basmati rice tied the components of each plate together, making these entrees flavorful and satisfying.
Sides of smooth hummus made wedges of pita ($1 per handful), already fine, into a something-really-special carb.
A lovely selection of variations on a theme of baklava were stellar: Lady fingers ($1.50 per piece) featured cashews wrapped in filo; sweetened layers of filo filled with pistachios rather than walnuts equaled baklava pistachio ($2.00 per piece); and Turkish delight ($2.50) was a special treat with its shredded filo touched by a whisper of rosewater, and filled with walnuts. These baklava took the cake, so to speak.
I'm thankful every time another restaurant featuring Mediterranean fare opens in our region. That True Blue also features smart decor and fine service is like extra parsley in your tabbouleh.
Dinner for two, including tax and tip, totaled $65.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance restaurant reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call. email@example.com 610-820-6704TRUE BLUE MEDITERRANEAN CAFE
81 W. Broad St., Bethlehem
•Hours: Noon-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.
•Prices: Appetizers: $4.40-$9.99; entrees: $13.49–$17.99
•Credit cards: Major cards accepted.
•Accessibility: Premises and rest rooms wheelchair accessible.
•Location: In Historic Bethlehem area between Main and Guetter streets near Apollo Grill. On-street metered parking between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily, except Sundays and selected holidays.