by Dan Johnson
Good news/bad news.
A traditional Mediterranean diet not only helps prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and certain cancers, it also contributes to fat loss. With enough greek salads and kabobs, we vain Angelenos can live long, productive, skinny lives in a possible Trump future.
Whether the implications of the GOP’s hard right turn towards the grandstand of bigotry and political reductionism have sunk in at the corner of 9th and Santee is unclear. What is patently obvious is that a pocket of affordable lunchtime delights has sprung up on the northwest corner diagonal from the Starbucks.
There, perched between 9th Street Pizza and the somewhat less frugally oriented Kachi Bowls & Grill (more on these at a later date), is Med Grill.
Despite its modest size and generic retainer of tables and plastic chairs, it would be inaccurate to characterize Med Grill as humble. Customary frescoes line the walls with visages of the charming seaside that informed the naval might of ancient Athens. Inexpensive furnishings harken back to Spartan heritage while a slew of price-conscious menu items speak to the present austerity crisis.
What we have on our hands here is a culinary experience that rehashes a few thousand years of human history from the Cradle of Democracy. This is someplace I am most definitely interested in giving eight dollars of my money.
The trick at Med Grill is to forego the pricy “plate” options. Yes, they come with rice and hummus and the pita and all the other bells and whistles you’ve come to associate with a proper Mediterranean meal, but these budget busters run between $8.50 and $9.50.
I opted for the #20, a Beef Shawerma Wrap (or gyro if you will), which runs a mere $5.75. I then slapped on a side of rice pilaf for $2. Bizarrely, I was not charged for the rice pilaf. I paid a mean $6.27 total for my meal and adjourned to one of those generic, perfectly ass-cupping stools to thank my lucky stars.
As far as people watching goes, Med Grill is a creeper’s dream. From a short countertop, guests can look out across busy 9th St. at the comings and goings of Fashion District functionaries. A collection of window decals perfectly obscures all but a few inches of the transparent glass, thus hiding the viewer from outside sight while allowing you to stare unseen at the chumps across the street at El Pollo Loco and the festive collection of dashikis for sale at Ashanti Fabric African Prints wholesalers (224 E 9th St.).
Extra points were awarded to Med Grill after two non-customers attempted to slyly penetrate the restaurant’s inner sanctum and use the restrooms without paying. In a timely re-enactment of the Battle of Thermopylae, the matriarchal figure working front of house promptly intercepted and rebuked the two. Well done!
The location itself is a bustling corner where ordinary Fashion District foot traffic and a solid trade in patterned fabrics and out-of-season comforters means the garden variety spice fiend will have plenty more than your sorry self to fixate on. For those suffering from a crippling bout of agoraphobia, Med Grill delivers within a three block radius, which I’ll take to mean Broadway to the west, San Julian to the east, 6th to the north and 12th to the south. This is fantastic news for the appetites of the fine ladies and gentlemen working at Lola Shoetique (1145 Wall St.).
I can’t lie and say I was pleased to discover that Med Grill is a strictly 10:30am – 5:30pm operation open from Monday through Saturday. It always chaps my ass when I can’t get a certain food item on Sunday, but I suppose I’ll let it slide because the food item in question was pretty banging.
The rice was flavorful and amply moist while the beef shawerma clocked in at downright tender. As far as quantity, I received far more food than I expected. Did they like the cut of my jib? Or is this their standard helping? I don’t know and I don’t care. It was delicious and decently filling.
I did have some concerns as one will when ingesting meat grilled on a spit. Call me paranoid, but I always worry that shawerma and al pastor especially cannot possibly be uniformly cooked throughout. Not that I distrust kitchen spit apparatuses, but consistency of meat heating keeps me on edge. I can, however, report that after eight hours of patient waiting, I discovered no adverse gastrointestinal effects. Better still, I consumed a grotesque quantity of tzatziki sauce (that translates as Greek ranch dressing). I worried that this would wreck my breath for the rest of the day, but I didn’t notice any foul miasmas emanating from my mouth and if anyone I came into contact with did, they had the courtesy not to bring it up.
I award Med Grill a “pass with flying colors” on the 8.72 test and a well earned “1” on the binary.
Med Grill is located at 229 E 9th St., (213) 265-7584 or online at lamedgrill.com.