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Red Meze brings ‘different,’ ‘delectable’ to downtown

Mystery Diner • Feb 27, 2019 at 10:10 AM

One of the best of downtown Johnson City’s restaurant scene has set up shop across from the Time Capsule on Buffalo Street and is doing quite well, thank you.

Red Meze Downtown is serving Turkish cuisine at 109 Buffalo St. The word “Meze” (pronounced “May-zah”) in Red Meze comes from the Turkish language, and can mean “appetizing.” I tend to agree with this translation, because there are more appetizing items on Red Meze’s menu than just the appetizers.

FACILITY. Red Meze’s parent restaurant of the same name is currently established in the re-purposed Burlington Building out on West Walnut Street. The downtown location is more compact than its parent, but with no lack of comfort or food quality for their customers. The gallery-like dining area runs the length of the building, providing a décor that is nicely understated. Sturdy tables face a pillow-strewn bench, and fronted with plain but comfortable seating. The restrooms are at the rear of the building. The whole interior exudes elegance and coziness, as the dinearound bunch and I found out when we stopped in for lunch at Red Meze early one Saturday afternoon.

APPETIZER — SIGARA BOREGI. While looking at our menus, I asked our server Hannah to bring us an order of four Sigara Boregi ($7). My dining partner cut each one in half, and handed the plate around for us to sample from. These are gently pan-fried dough roll-ups filled with a mixture of thickened, plain yogurt and feta cheese that is delightfully crunchy and savory at the same time. Adding a dollop of roasted red pepper hummus made each of them even more so.

VEGETABLE PLATTER. With all the cold winter we’ve been experiencing of late, I wanted something that would remind me both by look and by taste that warmer weather was on the way. Hannah suggested I try Red Meze’s Vegetable Platter ($12). This is a selection of three of Red Meze’s appetizers, falafel, dolma and hummus along with a good helping of their tabbouleh salad. Some warm pita bread triangles were provided to help me convey the goodness from plate to tummy. The falafel were round balls of deep-fried spicy chickpeas and fava beans, and goes well with Red Meze’s homemade hummus, a smooth blending of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and selected spices. You can choose what main ingredient will flavor your hummus: garlic, roasted red pepper, or jalapeno. I chose the roasted red pepper and was very pleased with it. I confess I do like dolma, having been introduced to this grape leaf-wrapped delicacy at a Greek restaurant in my old hometown, and Red Meze’s version of dolma does come close to what was made for me way back when. Lastly, the tabbouleh salad is a delicious mixture of chopped parsley, mint, tomato, cucumber, red and green bell pepper, bulgur wheat, spring onions and olive oil. The tabbouleh’s vibrant green color spoke of approaching spring, while its flavor and texture brightened my mood considerably.

RED MEZE BURGER. My dining partner wanted something different for her mid-day meal, though not so different that she might have tummy trouble later. Hannah suggested that my partner try the Red Meze Burger ($8.50) sided with fried potatoes. In Red Meze’s version of a hamburger, they grill a sixounce patty of 100 percent beef topped with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese and slices of gyro meat. This is a really, really good version of a hamburger and more than enough for lunch, especially with some excellent fries on the side.

HUMMUS VEGGIE PITA. The Dieter, still bending her diet more and more to the vegetarian side of the menu, ordered a Hummus Veggie wrap ($7.50) with gluten-free pita bread as the wrapper. The Dieter chose the garlic-flavored hummus as the base for this tasty mixture of red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers, cucumbers and feta cheese, though no provolone cheese this time around. The provolone’s absence was not missed at all.

TAVUK A’LA SULTAN. The Carnivore was under no such restriction, and stayed true to his meat-eating credo by ordering Red Meze’s signature dish, Tavuk A’La Sultan or “Sultan’s Chicken” ($16). A marinated chicken breast is grilled with sliced garlic, fresh tomato and mushrooms, covered in mozzarella cheese, baked until golden and served with a bowl of Red Meze’s delicately-spiced basmati rice on the side. My friend had me sample some of his entrée, and smiled broadly at the look of wonder and delight on my face as I enjoyed every morsel.

And For Dessert. Red Meze’s baklava ($2.99) and their chocolate cake that is filled with chunks of New York-style cheesecake ($5.99) were both scrumptious, and leave it at that.

CONCLUSION. Red Meze’s Downtown location is a winner. There is easy access to the restaurant with ample parking nearby. The dining environment created by the décor, overall cleanliness and the wait service is comfortable, friendly and efficient. The food is outstanding, both in choice of elements and taste. If you’ve never tried the Turkish version of Middle Eastern cuisine, I know where there is a gentle and pleasurable education waiting for you.

Red Meze Downtown gets a “Recommended” from the dine-around bunch and the Mystery Diner.

Red Meze Downtown

109 Buffalo St.

Johnson City

268-2665

Tue - Fri 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Sat 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Sun - Mon 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Available on Facebook & social media

Credit cards accepted

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