By Deborah Grossman
Babalou’s, 1645 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 930-8000, www.babalous.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
A Middle Eastern feast is on the menu every day at Babalou’s. The Mediterranean combo ($7.95) supplies a well-rounded taste of the region: two nicely seasoned, deep-fried falafel (sesame-coated ground chickpea balls), baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), tabbouleh (parsley and bulgur salad), two dolmas (rice-stuffed grape leaves), and cucumber salad with tahini (sesame sauce).
Meat lovers will enjoy the exceptionally tender, subtly spiced lamb in thinly sliced shawarma ($7.95) or in grilled kebabs ($8.25)—both come atop fresh lavash and are eaten as a wrap. Vegetarians might try lavash stuffed with falafel, feta, or one of the salads ($5.95–$6.95), or an eggplant Napoleon—eggplant stuffed with seasoned couscous ($5.90). And, owner Ben Jamshahi showcases his Turkish heritage in the mujaddara, a dish of rice and lentils garnished with onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers ($3.50). House-made baklava ($2.95) avoids cloying sweetness. Finish your meal with thick Turkish coffee ($2.25).
Best bet: Middle Eastern salads and grilled meats.
Cheapest thing on menu: Dolmas, 55 cents each.
Most expensive: Meat platters: lamb or chicken served with basmati rice, tomato sauce, and choice of salad, dolma, or pita ($10.95).
Spiciest: Ask for harissa, the zesty red pepper sauce, on the side.
Healthiest: Green salad topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and radishes, with garlic-lemon dressing on the side (small $3.50, large $5.95).
Kitsch appeal: Colorful murals depicting a French seaside bar, the Pantheon, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the pyramids, and Jerusalem, alongside the Dalai Lama and the Beatles.
Kid-friendly? Yes. Kids’ plates are $5.50 for chicken or lamb kebabs, or $4.75 for vegetarian choices.
Speedy eats? Yes.
Big parties? For six or eight, pull a few tables together.
Outdoor seating? Yes. Five tables in the front.
Credit cards? Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.