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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Canary Café not for the birds

There is no such thing as having too many options to choose from on campus. McAllister’s Deli and Extreme Pita are great additions to the sea of fast food joints around campus, but up until now, there haven’t been many, if any, authentic Middle Eastern places around school.

Opened a few months ago, Canary Café and Grill is a welcome addition to the UH community and serves some great Levantine cuisine.

The Levant is an area east of the Mediterranean, encompassing Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and part of Iraq. As such, Levantine cuisine incorporates many of the area’s culinary specialties.

Take a look at the menu, and you’ll see a wide variety of foods from all over the area.

Appetizers include staples like hummus, the ground chickpea dish enjoyed all over the Middle East, and baba ghanoush, baked eggplants mashed with garlic and lemon juice. The simple lentil soup is refreshing yet filling, and stuffed grape leaves, if a bit sticky, taste great.

The falafels come out nice and crispy, yet retain a soft core. Kibbe, something like a fritter with ground beef, onions and pine nuts, is outstanding. The cracked wheat crust mixes well with the savory meat inside.

The contrasts in texture between the falafel and the kibbe make them great. The crunchy and crispy outsides play wonderfully with the spicy and aromatic fillings. A word of warning is needed, though, as both are unforgivingly hot, which is both good and bad.

The sandwiches are just as rewarding. Served on pita bread and stacked high with fillings, the sandwiches themselves could give most joints around campus a run for their money.

There’s the classic gyro, a flavorful blend of beef and lamb on veggies and tzatziki, a Greek yogurt sauce. The café seems to advertise gryos the most with some posters and table menus, but the other sandwiches deserve considerable attention.

Take the kafta sandwich, for example. Grilled pieces of ground beef are piled high on red onions, tomato and pickles with a savory tahini sesame sauce.

If beef isn’t your thing, try the chicken shawarma. There had to be at least 15 ping-pong ball sized chunks of chicken in the shawarma. In addition to the sheer amount of food, the chicken itself was tangy and juicy. Coupled with the lightly sour but creamy garlic sauce, it has to be one of the best things one could eat on campus.

As for the salads, the Greek and Caesar salads seem obligatory, but don’t look bad. Tabbouleh, a chopped salad of parsley, onions and tomatoes, is light, but may be a bit tart for most palettes. Fattoush combines the contrasting textures of soft olives and feta cheese with crunchy cucumbers and toasted pita, making for a satisfying and surprisingly light salad.

Situated next to the College Store on Elgin and Scott, Canary Café and Grill is probably the first and only place to serve Levantine cuisine to the UH community. Extreme Pita may have the word “pita” in its name, but it has nothing on this place.

Canary Café and Grill serves up some great tasting food with prices sensible to the average college student’s wallet. Do yourself a favor and visit for lunch or make a to-go order for dinner. You will not be disappointed.

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