Sahara Café: Falafel with tabouleh and hummus.

The Place

Sahara Café, 1121 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 954-1423. Part of the iconic but unassuming strip mall just south of Sarasota Museum of Art, Sahara has a serious following among local foodies, especially since its low profile and ethnic specialties make it feel like an insider’s secret find. The clean, simple interior—featuring booths, cafeteria-style tables and chairs, and a wall of Mediterranean grocery items—adds to its charm.

The People

Crisply dressed downtown execs and Sarasota Memorial staff in scrubs, plus art students, on-the-go moms and more.

Time Factor

Order at the counter, have a seat and they’ll bring your meal out to you in a snap. Call-ahead takeout is also popular.

The Food

A culinary tour of the eastern Mediterranean, including authentic Greek and Lebanese dishes, from gyros (from $6.49) and stuffed grape leaves ($3.49), to foul mudammas [pronounced fool mu-DAHM-as] ($3.89), spanakopita ($3.89) and soujouk (Lebanese beef sausage, from $6.89). Order à la carte or pick a platter to sample Sahara’s famous hummus, tabouleh, baba ghanouj or Greek salad with imported feta. Ample vegetarian options.

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