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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Samad Mediterranean Grill & Market

Chickpea and dried fava bean salad

Chickpea and dried fava bean salad

A reader whom I’ve learned to rely on for excellent tips (hint, hint, everyone) turned me on to  Samad Mediterranean Grill & Market – this sweet Lebanese restaurant set in the corner of an aging strip shopping center in northern Sandy Springs.

It is a modest place that doesn’t quite fill its large space with tables and shelves of Middle Eastern dry goods. What it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for with soulful cooking.

IMG_7783

You order from the dry-erase boards hanging over the counter, pay, serve yourself a fountain drink and wait for your food. Check the salad case and order the freshest looking ones for your side dishes. We best liked the ful with chickpeas, each bean and pea cooked to that perfect point of creamy surrender and marinated in an addictive garlic-forward dressing.

IMG_7790Samad makes the chicken shawarma I’ve long looked for in Atlanta and haven’t found until now. The meat comes crisp and juicy off the spit, and the fresh garnish goes in ice cold for the temperature contract that makes all the difference. Make sure to ask for the house yogurt, garlic and hot sauces. The garlic will stay on your breath for hours, and you won’t care a lick. It’s worth it.

Well-spiced kofte (spelled kafta here) merit a look see, as do the crisp falafel that open to tender, herb-green centers. I found lamb kebobs served over yellow rice pilaf perfectly pleasant, but not inhalable like the shawarma.

If you’re in the area and like Mediterranean food, I’d recommend this place. You’ll put it into rotation.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

28 comments Add your comment

stephieZ

August 20th, 2013
3:45 pm

otp too long

August 20th, 2013
4:43 pm

Is $13 for a lamb kabob reasonable? I guess you get rice and salad so that makes it ok.

Kirk

August 20th, 2013
5:12 pm

@ otp, You gets what you pay for.

bc

August 20th, 2013
5:39 pm

Thanks John-great review and it’s a treat to find hidden gems like this one

Theresa

August 20th, 2013
6:09 pm

Shouldn’t “temperature contract” be “temperature contrast?”

Art

August 20th, 2013
6:13 pm

@ bc, I agree and @otp too long, the prices on their website look very reasonable and I have to think that they’re either serving two lamb kabobs or one very large one for that price. Sounds as though this place may need a restaurant makeover or at least some good publicity. Let’s hope this post fills their free space. I love all types of shawarma and agree that chicken is often harder to find than most. Ultimately, at least for me, it’s the sauce that makes the wrap. I can almost never get too much.

Kate

August 20th, 2013
9:41 pm

Went with with a Scoutmob deal last winter and loved it. The space is not impressive, but the food certainly is. Portions are generous and tabouleh is best I’ve had in Atl. Owner is friendly.

Scott

August 21st, 2013
2:39 am

$13 for lamb kabobs is too pricey for a takeout place like this. Unless they plan on serving a huge portion to make up for the price. For 2 dollars more, I can have a lunch portion at Rumi’s with the great bread and superior atmosphere. Not to mention top quality lamb prep.

Andre Hylton

August 21st, 2013
9:49 am

I hate that middle eastern restaurants have to call themselves “Mediterranean” so as to not scare away close minded people. While technically in the Mediterranean (the extreme eastern end), I can assure you that no Middle Easterners (my mom included) call their cuisine “Mediterranean “. Even worse is when they have to call their restaurants “Greek”.

PJ

August 21st, 2013
10:44 am

We live just across the river & I drive past this place several days a week. The only reason we had not tried it is because of Aladdin’s (calls itself broadly Mediterranean, but skews Lebanese) up the street in the Publix center by Dunwoody Place – we love the shawarma there. A combo plate comes with enough beef, chicken, rice and tomato & cucumber salad to feed 2 people or have 2 days worth of lunch. We will have to give Samad a shot to see which is better. That aging center, which has long been an eyesore, is getting a Stars & Strikes. Hopefully that will bring new life.

Grasshopper

August 21st, 2013
10:56 am

They may want to consider putting their address on the homepage of their website instead of making you hunt for it. That map interactive is useless. I will never understand why businesses don’t place the most basic information on their most important page.

Baltisraul......

August 21st, 2013
10:57 am

Andre Hylton……have you tried the Greek fare at the Marietta Diner? You should give it a try, very nice. Believe they are open 24 hrs.

Baltisraul......

August 21st, 2013
11:01 am

Grasshopper……you are soooo right. When doing an Ad you must ask yourself, did it answer the following; who, what, where, how and why. If you do that, your Ad will always be well received and you have covered most if not all of your customers questions. It is amazing how many promo piece forget the basics and then wonder why it did not work out for them.

Dutchess

August 21st, 2013
12:15 pm

This place in the best Mediterranean place in the area. We eat there at least once a week and also frequently stop in to grab quick something to go. The owners are so helpful, friendly, and hospitable. They always remember us and strike up a conversation. I would absolutely recommend this place over any other Mediterranean in the area!

Kar

August 21st, 2013
1:29 pm

Do they have meat dolma’s and if so are they any good?

Chef David Levy C.E.C.

August 21st, 2013
2:04 pm

I eat at this restaurant about 4-6 times per week as I find it accommodating, tasty, and a friendly staff that greets me with a smile no matter how busy it is. No special request is too much trouble and prepared to the way I like it.
As the shopping center there starts to fill in with Stars and Strikes and other establishments, it will make the restaurant busier. I figure that most folks, especially the bowling league teams, will tire of the same old hot dog, hamburger, and nachos in favor of going to a very good Mediterranean Restaurant before and after their games.
Their prices are very reasonable. Ask yourself this, would you rather spend $6 on a crappy hot dog and overpriced drink, or get a tasty and healthier Gyro or other wrap with 2 sides and a drink for about the same price?
I used to go to Alladins, but found the staff there a bit on the snobby side and the food not nearly as good as it was at one time.
If you get the chance, stop by and say hello to Jamal, Lesley, and their kids. Yes, they all work there as it is a true family business.
I highly recommend this restaurant.

Art

August 21st, 2013
6:20 pm

@Kar, according to their on-line website they do have dolma’s. I’ve never been so I can’t speak to their goodness. @Chef Levy with ruffles and flourishes, you must have a well-run kitchen to be able to eat at another establishment 4-6 times a week. Kudos to your kitchen staff.

Jess

August 21st, 2013
7:42 pm

That’s an amazing looking donair!

Calgary Event Planning

Carissa

August 21st, 2013
8:09 pm

BEST DARN PLACE AROUND! Super glad that “crack” sauce (garlic) is only a mile from where I live!

Robert

August 21st, 2013
9:03 pm

Love this place, Samad just loves to serve people food. The guy always has a smile on his face when he’s bringing them a meal or a sample of his food. My personal favorite is the sea-bass with any of the salads. I’ve been coming there since the week they opened.

Ann

August 21st, 2013
9:37 pm

We’ve been eating at Samad’s since he opened last year. So glad to see him get some attention, as we love the food and want the place to stay open. Sometimes it takes awhile for word to get around about a new place.

My family enjoys the meats and the garlic sauce is awesome. I especially like the veggie dishes in the salad case, particularly the cabbage, chickpeas, baba ghanoush (which is chunky and smoky) and the cauliflower. Samad is always there with a smile and personal attention. If I don’t see the cauliflower in the case, he cooks some fresh for me.

Ann

August 21st, 2013
9:49 pm

@ PJ – We live across the river, too, and frequent both Samad’s and Aladdin’s. You should give Samad’s a try. We find the menu to be quite different, especially because of the variety and quality of the side dishes – many of which you will not find at Aladdin’s (marinated eggplant, cabbage, chickpeas, cauliflower). When we feel like shawarma with rice, we go to Aladdin’s. They do a good job with the Jerusalem salad and like you said, the portion is big. But, when we are in the mood for really fresh hummus, baba ghanoush and other sides, you can’t beat Samad’s. I had been pining away for some great Lebanese food ever since the Phoenician Gyro Cafe closed in Marietta (about 7 or 8 years ago) and have tried many places since then. Samad’s is the only place that has filled those shoes, which I had thought was a lost cause around here!

Chef David Levy C.E.C.

August 21st, 2013
10:08 pm

@Art, Thanks, and I did have a great staff, but now actually after 27 plus years I am now retired, so yes, I do have the time. No ruffles and flourishes here, I was never a pencil pusher, I always cooked. I give Kudos to restaurants that deserve it. I rarely criticize the bad ones, I just don’t go back.

[...] 30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Samad Mediterranean Grill & Market [...]

Ralph Parker

August 22nd, 2013
9:32 pm

Thanks for doing the review. I am glad I persisted in bugging you. Jamal and his family are great and we have become friends with his whole family. It is a shame you were not able to see his amazing Ramadan buffet he served during the holiday each night for $10. Maybe next year. I will certainly be there tomorrow and hope he will get new customers. Thanks again for helping this wonderful family.

Tom

August 23rd, 2013
6:21 am

I’ll have to give this a try! I cook my own Lebanese food so will see how this shapes up. One thing I would not try would be the Tabbouleh as that is a very regional, family specific dish in Lebanon. Every area, family has its own version of Tabbouleh, using different spices, in addition to the olive oil and lemon base. I also prefer not to eat Tabbouleh out anyway as the method of preparation is very “hands-on”, and I prefer those hands to be my own!

Tracy

August 23rd, 2013
10:28 am

I have been a frequent patron of this restaurant since it opened. The food is fantastic, the owners are friendly and always stepping up to go above and beyond to exceed expectations. The consistent quality of the food is remarkable and succulent to my taste buds. The hooka is “faboulous” as well!

Vkelly

August 24th, 2013
4:55 pm

We eat here several times a week and I echo all of the above statements- fantastic!! I love the chickpeas and spinach salad and chicken kabobs…….for as often as we go, I need to try something different but why mess with perfection?