Nestled in a strip mall off the Interurban Trail in Shoreline, you will know Mediterranean Oasis by its bright red-and-green sign with a palm tree on it — and a menu that sets itself apart, with delicious core shawarma, kebab and falafel offerings, plus add-on goodies such as baklava and French fries.
If you’re a restaurant snob, this may not be the place for you — it’s in the same scattering of shops as a Shari’s and a Jo-Ann Fabrics, and it’s mostly a grocery store. But I’d encourage you to get over yourself, because it’s a very good grocery store that specializes in Middle Eastern staples; if you’re seeking jars of ful medames, stuffed grape leaves and rare candy like Kinder Surprise, you’ll find them all here.
You’ll also find a sit-down restaurant — about a dozen tables occupy one corner of the store beside a menu projected on big screens above the requisite counter and soda case.
The grocery section is worth a visit on its own (Kinder Surprise!), but the restaurant is where Mediterranean Oasis really stands out, with no wait, friendly service, and obscenely large portions of very good food and a staggering variety of choices.
Sometimes, when a menu is expansive, it’s a sign of inconsistency or lack of focus. That’s not the case with Mediterranean Oasis, which is one of those places that absolutely delivers whether you’re an animal-protein fiend or a vegetarian, and whether you’re craving a full meal with sides or just need a snack to fuel your errands.
Given the perennial choice between shawarma and falafel, I usually opt for the meat, but it’s honestly a tossup at Mediterranean Oasis. The falafel ($6.99) is dense and chewy on the inside and slightly spicy and crunchy on the outside, stuffed into the softest pita your gaping maw has ever inhaled.
The shawarma ($8.99) was also nicely spicy. I ordered chicken, but you can also get beef, kufta (ground lamb with herbs) or lamb. Gyros (lamb and beef or chicken, $8.99) are also available, as is a veggie sandwich ($7.99), and you can upgrade some of these offerings to a plate ($10.99 to $13.99) that comes with additional fixings like hummus and rice (and could probably feed two people comfortably). If you’re still hungry, there’s also baba ghannouj ($5.99), hummus and pita ($4.99), Greek fries ($3.99) and zattar pie ($3.99).
It’s enough to give a person ordering anxiety — it’s impossible to get a taste of everything, but also it’s hard to go wrong. Indeed, I ate my food so fast I almost made myself choke, which would have been embarrassing and tragic, and is nonetheless the greatest argument I can make for my meal at Mediterranean Oasis.
The shawarma plate came with insanely good saffron rice that I could probably eat by the vatful with nothing else, and the flavorful hummus will win over any garbanzo skeptics unfortunate enough to have only been exposed to the chalky offerings of Trader Joe’s. And don’t forget dessert! The baklava was crispy on top, nutty and not too sweet in its filling, and substantial in flavor.
The location is not without its upsides: It would be easy and delightful to ride your bike in by way of the Interurban Trail entrance at Aurora Avenue North and North 155th Street. Strip-mall parking tends to be plentiful, and if you’d like to eat plunked in front of your preferred form of streamed entertainment, takeout and delivery are both available.
But if you do get delivery, I will feel a little sad for you, because you will miss out on Mediterranean Oasis’ big ketchup containers of harissa, which I dumped onto my carryout container throughout my meal, until my nose started running and my pollen-riddled sinuses felt sharply, pleasantly clear for the first time in weeks.
If that’s not a resounding endorsement, I don’t know what is.
Mediterranean Oasis, daily 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; 15238 Aurora Ave. N., Shoreline; oasisfoodmart.com