|Basha’s Mediterranean Cuisine|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
600 SW Pine St
1875 SW Park Ave
|Hours: Lunch||Times Visited: 7|
Winter 2010 Update:
Basha’s is no longer located the the SW 6th Ave. location. However, Velo Cafe has taken over this spot and offers a small menu of Mediterranean cuisine. Real friendly folks, and inviting little red tables outside. Just let them know you’re vegan and enjoy the cute falafel sandwich with hummus.
Basha’s Mediterranean Cuisine has two locations downtown – the first, a cart at PSU by the Smith Memorial Union, and the second, a small walk-in location on SW 6th and Pine. The second store might as well be a cart because if there are more than 3-4 people inside ordering, the line continues outside. This location does have an interesting walk-up window but I have not seen it in use. The staff have always been very helpful to this reviewer by being happy to inform patrons of ingredients. I’ve had no problems asking for items to be made vegan.
There are four items on the menu to note include: the Falafel Sandwich, Lentil Soup, Vegetarian Mezza, and Spinach Pie. The Falafel, Lentil Soup, and Mezza are typical Lenanese meals, nothing that stands above the rest. I do not visit Basha’s often for downtown lunch because of the price, $6-10, to food ratio, and average taste of the Vegetarian Mezza with the soggy grape leaves — that was until I tried a Spinach Pie for only $4.
The Falafel is your typical fried chickpea patty snuggly tucked into a pita blanket with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. The tahini sauce does contain dairy, so stay clear. I recommend ordering it with hummus or not-so-creamy Baba Ganoush to add the moisture element removed by the tahini. The thing that bothers me about this menu item is the reason I do not frequent Basha’s — the pita bread is not fresh, it comes from a packaged bag. I understand Basha’s locations are very small and baking fresh bread daily can be difficult, but there’s something about seeing the pita bread being pulled out of a bag that reminds me I could be preparing my own food at home and my meal isn’t special. Perhaps it’s physcosomatic and if the bread came from a brown paper bag I would wonder if it was made fresh across town early in the morning just for me. It’s clear I appreciate fresh bread, but I digress.
The Lentil Soup is brothy with a light tasting mix of vegetables and lentils. This soup has been known to assist in curing many unknown stomach aliments because it does not have an offensively strong flavor in any direction*. The Mezza contains Baba Ganoush, Hummus, 3 falafel balls, 2 grape leaves, one piece of pita bread, and pickle, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber garnish. Most items have been consistent in taste, but the falafel. It’s a good day when you see the falafel balls being removed from the fryer, otherwise, they may be too dry. And, even if the Falafel is fresh from the fryer, I recommend the Spinach Pie.
So onto the Spinach Pie! Often I find the spinach pies around town to be too tart with lemon, but Basha’s recipe is perfect with a dough that’s soft and not too stiff, thick, or dry. It is filled with chopped spinach, sauteed onions, and a warming sensation of spices. This pie stands out above the others and has a flavor that dances all over your tongue, not just the tart spots, because of the additional sweet onions. This reviewer ordered a side of Hummus to spread on the pie assuming it would be of the dry variety like so many others, but there was no need to alter this handheld delight.
To most PSU students and Saturday Farmer’s Market goers, Basha’s is a cornerstone of fast food, including vegan options. For a downtown lunch I’d rather walk a few blocks to Hush Hush for falafel and enjoy seating options. That is, if I’m not in the mood for a wonderful Spinach Pie or sitting outside.
*Rumor not approved by the FDA or science.