NOTE: This restaurant is now closed.
Laura had a dinner meeting, so I was on my own to explore new cuisines. I wasn’t really sure what to try, so I headed past Haywood Road, down Congaree, and then onto Woodruff. The places I had thought to try looked crowded, so I wound up at JuJu’s Mediterranean Bistro.
JuJu’s is a rather small cafe at 1621 Woodruff Road, across from the Publix. I had been here once before for lunch, and was quite impressed with their souvlaki. However, at the time I wasn’t so sure it was good enough to brave Woodruff Road traffic for something I could get around the corner. That opinion changed this evening.
Small, almost tiny, with non-descript utilitarian decor. However, what they lack in style they make up for in friendliness. This is a Lebanese family affair – Mama JuJu is the head chef, the son runs the business, and daughter waits tables.
You can find gyros and souvlaki here, but you can also find specialties such as Yalengy (a graph leaf vegetarian dish), Shish Tawook (which is the proper name for a chicken kabob), Kibi (which sounds like the Lebanese equivalent of a taco), Falafel, Shawarma, and Kafta. Prices hover in the $10 range for dinner, and around $7 for lunch. There is also an extensive selection of appetizers that sound like they could be meals by themselves.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a waitress more willing to answer questions, make suggestions, and be helpful all around. I hope that she’s like that to everyone, and it wasn’t just because I was the only one there.
Before the entre arrived, the waitress brought out pita wedges with feta cheese and olives. It was a great way to start. The menu said to ask about the special Lebanese drinks, so I did. The waitress took me to a display and showed me several non-alcoholic syrups that could be mixed with water, including an almond drink, a rose water extract, and several other concoctions. At her recommendation, I chose Vimto, a drink which originated in the UK, but was exported heavily to Arabic countries. The waitress said she had grown up drinking Vimto. I ordered the more dilute version, but it was still powerfully sweet and very reminiscent of Cherry Coke without the fizz.
I had ordered the Shawarma – shredded beef with spices, served with parsley and tahini sauce and rice, and it arrived soon after my drink. The beef and tahini were slightly bitter, but the rice and Vimto complemented them perfectly, creating a nice balance for the palate. The portions were huge, and there was no way I was going to go away hungry tonight.
The waitress asked about dessert, and my eye had caught a delicacy called Ataif. Since I had already plunged in with the Vimto, I decided to go for broke with the experiment. The Ataif were to two deep-fried pastries filled with either cheese or walnuts (I got walnuts), drenched with sweet rose water. It was absolutely fantastic, but I could only finish one of the pastries. On the verge of diabetic shock, I left hurting but happy.
I’ll be back, once I recover.