Zaytoon (Arabic for olive) the Mediterranean, is a healthy alternative to fast food. As their tagline says, “Fast Food – Cooked Slow.” Their Mediterranean cuisine focuses on the Middle East and Greece with an American twist. The emphasis is scratch cooking from fresh Michigan ingredients, when possible, but never frozen. For example, making hummus is a slow three-day process. The first day the chickpeas soak, the second day they’re boiled, and finally, after cooling overnight, the third day they’re made into hummus, a silky smooth dip served with pita. A glistening whole black olive surrounded by a puddle of olive oil garnishes the dish. For a little kick, enjoy the spicy version.
Location: Zaytoon located at 940 Elmwood Boulevard on Lansing, Michigan’s west side.
Menu: While dishes for meat-lovers abound with favorites like chicken shawarma and lamb, the menu includes a wide variety of vegan dishes. All of their vegetarian dishes are vegan except the baba ghanoush and tahini. They’ve turned traditionally stuffed grape leaves into a vegetarian favorite, by taking away the meat and adding rice, chickpeas, and spices. Other vegan main dishes include mujadara and bourgul. The mujadara consists of green lentils flavored with cumin and caramelized onions, lentils, and cracked wheat. Bourgul is a main dish of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cooked cracked wheat.
Many types of meat and vegetarian dishes, including chicken shawarma, kabobs, eggplant, and cauliflower are gluten-free. At Zaytoon’s they even switched the bulger (wheat) in the tabbouleh for quinoa to make it gluten-free. While the house rice contains wheat, they eliminate vermicelli on the gluten-free menu.
Thoughts: In a fast-casual dining atmosphere with counter service, you order and the counter and then attentive servers bring the food to your table and then check-in regularly. There is a combination of about 20 booths and tables in a typical take-out style setting.
Some of my favorite dishes include:
- The spicy house-made hummus served warm pita. The warm; round puffy light rolls are also a tasty choice to accompany the hummus.
- Baba ghanoush an appetizer of cooked mashed eggplant, tahini, olive oil, and spices mixed to a dip with a smoky flavor.
- The moist garlic-flavored chicken shawarma is Zaytoon’s most popular dish. The chicken shawarma is garlic-flavored chicken layered on a spit and slow-roasted on a vertical broiler. It’s then shaved off the rotating spit and served while the remainder continues to rotate. Zaytoon serves shawarma as a meat plate with sides or as a wrap. The chicken shawarma plate comes with hummus, rice, and a choice of soup or salad. Garlic sauce is a favorite condiment. Choose the green lentil soup made with rice as the perfect foil to Michigan’s winter cold.
- The tabbouleh, a vegetarian salad made of quinoa and finely chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, onions seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Typically the main ingredient in tabbouleh is bulger (wheat); at Zaytoon they use quinoa.
- The falafel ground chickpeas flavored with parsley, cilantro, garlic, Spanish onions, and jalapenos formed into balls and fried crispy dark golden brown.
- The fattoush, a toasted pita bread salad with mixed greens and tomatoes or radishes chopped into larger chunks.
- The hashwi a rice dish made from lamb or beef, almonds, spices like cinnamon and allspice. Served as an entrée, side dish or stuffed into various vegetables.
Although the cashiers are happy to explain various menu items, before you go, you may want to brush up on Middle Eastern food terms.
Catering is available for office lunches, family dinners, special occasions, and weddings.
Price Range: Appetizers range from $1.99 for a serving of three falafel or a spinach pie to $3.99 for baba ghanoush or Greek fries. The pita wraps are $7.98 including the choice of a house salad, hummus, or fries. The Toon for Two includes a skewer of beef, chicken, two shish kata, chicken shawarma, two kibbes, two falafel and two lamb grape leaves served over rice, served with hummus and a house salad. Although it’s called the Toon for Two, the generous portion easily serves three to four at $29.99. Lunch for one is easily under $10.
For Pinterest: Pin this to your favorite Mediterranean restaurant board.
Disclosure: The author received a complimentary meal to facilitate this review.
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