Some things are expected when a new restaurant opens in town: longer-than-expected waits, confusion over orders, a staff learning on the job. What I did not expect to see was every seat at every table taken and a line out the door for take-out orders.
But that’s exactly what happened when my friend and I visited Efe’s Mediterranean Grill, recently opened at the former home of Kaliente at 235 Nassau Street, at around 8 p.m. on a Friday night.
Efe’s has several things going for it. With its Mediterranean fare ranging from hummus to falafel to kebabs it fills a gap in Princeton’s culinary offerings that is not quite satisfied by Zorba’s and Zorba’s Brother. It is inexpensive — you can get a full lunch for under $8 or dinner for $10 to $15 — but still several steps up from fast food. Efe’s also has had a location on Easton Avenue in New Brunswick since 2001, so its menu items are tried and tested.
Not to mention the free parking behind the restaurant and free delivery ($12 minimum). Those factors alone are a huge plus for anyone who regularly tries to park in downtown Princeton.
Efe’s relatively small interior can fit a surprising number of bodies. There are tables set up for sit-down, BYOB dining that includes a hybrid of counter and table service. Bottled soda, water, and juice are available for purchase. A line forms along one wall for take-out orders, and behind the counter you can see a mouth-watering display of hummus, tabuli, baba ganush, baklava, and more.
The menu includes appetizers like stuffed grape leaves and eggplant salad, various gyros, falafels, and other sandwiches, and entrees such as lamb chops and shish kebab. The paper menu is enhanced by color photos of typical dishes so you aren’t left wondering what iskender looks like before you order it.
The crowd on Friday night included several families, college students, and a few older couples, many of whom were patiently waiting for orders as staff worked out the grand opening kinks. Those who did were rewarded, as my friend and I were, with warm, tasty, and filling meals. A lamb gyro for me, a falafel for my friend, and a shared order of hummus were more than enough food, and the price was right at only about $20 total.
Opening week hiccups notwithstanding, Efe’s is here to stay. Its good, cheap ethnic fare and flexible dining options of eat-in, take-out, or delivery and catering will make it popular among any fans of Mediterranean food.
Efe’s Mediterranean Grill, 235 B Nassau Street, Princeton. 609-683-1220. Open daily 11 a.m. to midnight. www.efesgrill.com
Also, 32 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick. 732-249-4100.