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Cheap Eats


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?

Big parties? For six or eight, pull a few tables together.

Alcohol? No.

Outdoor seating? Yes. Five tables in the front.

Credit cards? Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

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