This week we visited the Mediterrano Cafe. I’ve heard a lot about this place but never actually been to it for a couple of reasons. For one, the hours are limited as they are only open for lunch, and two, I tend to eat late lunches so I’ve never been able to make it while the restaurant was open. As a matter of fact, Jeff and I were supposed to eat lunch here last week and wound up getting there just as they were closing up shop. So we went to the Brugge Brasserie instead and, if you are a regular reader, you’ll know how much we enjoyed it.
I must say, for a buffet, the Mediterrano Cafe is not typical. If when you think buffet, you conjure up two lines or more of steam trays surrounded by well worn and second hand tables, booths, and chairs then you will be pleasantly surprised with the Mediterrano Cafe. The place is nicely decorated, with ochre walls and tables covered with white butcher paper over white linen. I found the atmosphere to be very pleasant and comfortable.
Because of their limited hours we had to plan to arrive well within the lunch rush. The restaurant was busy but it didn’t have that sense of a free for all like many of the buffets I have been to in the past. Likewise, the owner and staff were pleasant and made sure our drinks were filled and our dirty dishes were removed quickly.
I was very impressed. The staff cleaned and prepped tables immediately after the last patron left. If you didn’t actually pay attention it would be hard to believe just how busy the place actually was. The steam and cold tables were clean and the trays were changed out rather than refilled. The sneeze guards were well wiped and I couldn’t find a thing out of place. I felt very comfortable eating here.
Jeff and I tried to sample everything on the buffet line and I want to make it clear that everything was fresh. The steam trays were not over-filled so the food was as fresh as possible.
As I have mentioned before, buffet food is often toned down to make the food palatable for everyone. To me the blandness of the food tells me that the chef/cook thinks Hoosiers don’t like spice or seasoning. In fact, I found just about everything except for a very few dishes bland and in need of seasoning. Matter of fact, I was salting everything in order to bring out the flavor. I picked up the salt shaker so often that Jeff remarked on it. As a rule, I never add salt to a restaurant dish, but trust me, if you want to overcome the blandness and bring out the flavor, add salt.
What Jeff and I found very amusing was all of the dishes that were labeled “spicy” were the best seasoned and had little or no heat to them at all. So a quick word of advice, taste dishes labeled “spicy” before seasoning them.
Since most everything was bland on the buffet, I will talk about the offerings that weren’t as they were the standouts. Oddly enough, most of them were labeled “spicy”.
Mixed Pickles: Made in-house with carrots, cucumbers, and cauliflower and a couple of dried cayenne peppers for spice. The pickle was mild and very refreshing.
Cabbage Salad: It was very tasty. This was the first of the dishes I found well seasoned. I was so shocked the only thing I wrote in my notes was “well seasoned”. So I am sorry I cannot be any more specific as to flavor!
Lentil Salad: Labeled “spicy”, it turned out to be the best lentil salad I have tasted in forever. The lentils were al dente (you don’t want mushy in a salad) and tangy with just a touch of heat to them. I was very impressed.
Cabbage Chicken: Well worth trying. Easily my favorite dish on the buffet, ladle it over a bed of rice and your taste buds will be happy!
The deserts consisted of Coconut Cake and Rice Pudding. I loved the Coconut Cake and found the Rice Pudding a touch too sweet on its own. When combined with the Coconut Cake, however, it makes a great dessert.
One last note, although the restaurant is Turkish, the dishes are not Halal. The folks concerned with eating Kosher or Halal, will know what I mean. Oh and of course, as part of the Mediterranean tradition, there is plenty for the vegetarian to eat here as well.
The Juicy Bits
The Mediteranno Cafe is a great diversion from the ubiquitous hamburgers, burritos, and other fast food fare that a 30 minute workday lunch usually offers. The food is fresh, if a bit bland, and there are some really great standouts on the buffet. A bit more expensive than the $5 foot long or meal deal but in my mind well worth the extra few dollars. The Mediterrano Cafe has the potential to earn 3 or more piggies, but in order to do so, will have to up the flavor quotient on everything, not only the dishes labeled “spicy”.
In summary: Thirty minutes for lunch should not dissuade you from eating here. Seating seems to be always available and the buffet is well stocked.
5941 East 86th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46250
Tel: (317) 595-0399
Hours: Monday – Friday (11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.), Saturday – Sunday (11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)