It took a bit of convincing to get the kiddos in the door at St. Augustine’s Mediterranean Shish-Kebab Restaurant. They really wanted burgers but I was too tired to drive to GAS and, honestly, it was late and I wanted our food 10 minutes ago. I remembered tales of a Mediterranean Restaurant with an Indian buffet (buffet = no waiting!) … two minutes later we were pulling in. Four more minutes later I’d convinced everyone it wouldn’t be spicy and they could enjoy the taste adventure. We went inside.
We were ushered to our table- the only table in the room where the buffet was set up, how convenient!! Bright walls and clean floors gave a good first impression. Fabric tablecloths covered with paper were fine with us- I passed out pens and my kiddos happily started drawing and playing tic-tac-toe. That’s what paper on tables is for, right?
I ordered baba ghannouj for a starter. Smoky eggplant, the zing of garlic and a flood of memories hit me with the first bite. It’s so close to the way my Giddo & Sitto made their baba ghannouj! I honestly didn’t expect it to be so good- great start to dinner!
Lauren and Georgia Anne decided to share a lamb gyro. When our server asked if they wanted the “salad” with it, I said no since we’d already had a salad course… turns out he meant lettuce and tomato. Oops. But the girls didn’t complain about their lamb-bread-and-french-fries dinner. I found the meat to be a little dry and suggested dipping it in the yogurt, mint and garlic sauce (tzatziki sauce), which was delish.
The most surprising thing about this restaurant to me is their Indian buffet. It varies daily, features many locally sourced ingredients. There are 4-6 choices daily including both meat and vegetarian options. The dishes I sampled had the customary “kick” of Indian food and were too spicy for most of my kiddos but I enjoyed the variety- this is one cuisine I don’t prepare at home but never tire of!
I had just written and photographed an assignment on Indian food in Jacksonville the week before our visit, so I was excited to compare the dishes. Everything I had was better at Mediterranean Shish-Kebab Restaurant.
My favorite was the simple rice dessert, kheer, which was noticeably thicker and more flavorful.
Like most Americans, I’m a “Heinz 57″ when it comes to family heritage. One great-great-great-great grandmother was ordered via mail from Ireland during the potato famine. A great-great-great grandpa was Cherokee Indian… or Blackfoot, depending on which relative is telling the story. Many of the European-roots stories have been lost over time but my Lebanese-Catholic heritage is clear and I have the passion for food, love of hospitality and protection of my family to prove it. Sharing plates at St. Augustine’s Mediterranean Shish Kabob Restaurant tasted and felt comfortable- I’m looking forward to returning for both the Arabic and unique Indian dishes!