Amanouz Cafe offers a taste of Mediterranean fare

The cafe seems extremely spacious due to its high ceilings. Dangling ceiling lights lend themselves to an enviroment as bright as a sunny day in Morocco. The tiled flooring is simple, and the walls are painted white brick, creating a Moroccan stucco effect. Various Moroccan pottery pieces and artifacts decorate the seating area, and the wall showcases cultural scenes stenciled by local artists.

Upbeat cultural music in the background adds to the ethnic feel of the restaurant. The plain wooden tables and the availability of outdoor seating allow customers to feel relaxed and comfortable. The main counter, which also serves as a display case for the many tantalizing desserts, is situated behind the seating area, and provides patrons a view into the busy kitchen.

Customers can choose various Moroccan and Mediterranean appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees from the large menu boards located over the counter. Appetizers, which are mostly priced at an inexpensive $3, include dolma, grape leaves stuffed with rice, vegetables and spices, and burek, a filo dough pie stuffed with vegetables and cheese. Fresh salads, at about $5, include tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern favorite made from cracked wheat, parsley, tomatoes, green onion, cucumber and mint leaves dressed with olive oil and lemon. Amanouz’s meat sandwiches include chicken kebab, lamb shish kebab and shawerma served with tomatoes, lettuce, onions and tahini sauce on a fresh baguette. Vegetarian options include toasted pitas filled with your choice of hummus or falafel.

Ranging from $5 to $10, the entrees are not much more expensive than the typical sandwhich. These dishes include couscous with vegetables, chicken or lamb, tagine chicken stew with rice and seasoned chicken, or tagine kefta stew with rice and seasoned ground beef. Another popular choice is bastilla, a filo dough pie filled with chicken and almonds, and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. The specials menu offers a variety of foods including charbroiled salmon, halibut fish stew, swordfish steak and tagine tafroute, a meatball stew with poached eggs on a baguette. This menu, like Morocco itself, is tinged with a French influence, seen in dishes such as the portabella and asparagus omelettes.

The cafe also serves various coffees, including hazelnut, organic Viennese cinnamon, cafe au lait, cafe mocha and cafe noisette. Desserts include traditional baklava, a pastry made from filo dough layered with nuts and honey, and maamouls, cookies stuffed with dates. Amanouz Cafe also offers awaneh, doughnut holes soaked in honey, maakrouns, a wheat pastry sweetened with honey and chocolate crepes.

Almost as soon as my friend and I ordered our meals and sat down at a comfortably-sized table, she was presented with her falafel sandwich, and I was given my salad. The sandwich was generously sized; the toasted whole pita covered nearly the entire plate, and was stuffed with a vegetable burger about the size of two fists and topped with cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, and tahini sauce. The falafel pita contained the perfect balance of veggie patty and sauce; the tahini was not overpowering, but it added a lot to the taste of the sandwich. My salad, with greens at the bottom of the plate, was piled high with long shreds of carrot, fresh cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and beets, and was dressed with an herb vinaigrette. By the time my friend had almost finished her order and was feeling thoroughly stuffed, my entree, bastilla, arrived. The bastilla, a large square of filo dough layered with chicken and almonds, was topped with a thick layer of powdered sugar and cinnamon. The flaky, sweetened filo combined amazingly with the warm chicken and almonds.

Amanouz Cafe is very student-oriented; it’s not too fancy, but still provides an interesting alternative to more typical foreign fare. It’s very cheap, especially considering the generous, filling food. The cafe is not a good venue for an impressive first date, because of its counter service, but it’s a great place for friends or already established couples to go for a casual, quick meal with lots of flavor. While the menu provides a lot of interesting, adventurous items such as the bastilla, it also offers more tame dishes such as angel hair pasta with kefta, or spinach and feta pies. All in all, my experience at Amanouz Cafe was a refreshing one: The prices were reasonable and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. The food was a great change of pace.