Address: 305 West State St., Media, PA 19063
Rating: (out of 5 stars): ★★★★
Style: BYOB; Sit-down or take-out for lunch and dinner (outdoor seating coming this summer)
Food: Traditional Mediterranean cuisine
Atmosphere: Casual, clean, and bright
Parking: Street parking
Service: Friendly, fast, and casual
Price Range: Affordable
Unique Feature: Traditional Mediterranean “street food” is unique to the State Street restaurant scene.
In my never-ending quest to find snacks that are satisfying, but also healthy, my go-to-choice the past several years has become hummus and pita. Generally, it’s low in fat and calories, and packed with protein. I’ve tried many varieties of hummus from different grocery stores and restaurants, but none is quite like what I tasted at Desert Rose.
While the BYOB restaurant has only been open for a few short months, it’s become an immediate success through word of mouth and Facebook. Desert Rose’s Mediterranean cuisine helps round out the Media restaurant scene, which already includes tastes from Italy, Mexico, India, Japan, and many other countries around the world. Overall, the dishes are full of flavor, but not overpowering, the ingredients are fresh, and the owners are friendly and welcoming.
As first-timers to Desert Rose, my husband and I had a few questions about the menu, which owner and chef Jason McHugh was delighted to answer.
He describes the menu items as Mediterranean “street food,” that are “really fresh, very flavorful, and easy to eat on-the-go.”
McHugh says he honed his culinary skills while cooking for 15 years across the country and overseas. The Penncrest High School grad spent much time cooking in Israel, his wife’s native country, which he says influenced his cooking here at home.
I ordered the traditional Israeli style hummus platter with shawarma ($8.95). I never had tried shawarma before, and it was delicious. Think of herb-crusted chicken grilled on a vertical spit for many hours. It’s seasoned with a flavorful blend of aromatic herbs, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric. The taste is not hot, but semi-sweet and roasted.
The hummus served with the chicken was a creamy blend of cooked chickpeas with hints of garlic and lemon, topped with fresh herbs and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The just-from-the-oven pita was warm and soft, and a great complement to the hummus. The platter was accompanied by a chopped tomato and cucumber salad. The vegetables were crispy, and sprinkled with fresh herbs.
Having heard from friends that the braised short rib sandwich ($9.95) is out-of-this-world, we ordered one to split. The espresso Harissa barbeque sauce was deliciously different. The mixture of hot chili peppers, cumin, coriander, garlic, and espresso added a bit of a bite to the melt-in-your-mouth meat. The meat, along with red onion, tomato, and cucumbers, was stuffed into a soft flatbread called Laffa, and wrapped into a neat foil “street food” package.
We also sampled the falafel sandwich ($7.95), which came neatly nestled in a pita. I don’t typically eat fried food, but the falafel balls were a nice combination of chickpeas, garlic, and other spices. The fresh tomato, cucumber and citrus cabbage slaw lightened up the fried nature of the sandwich.
Other items on the menu include a Kebab, or Mediterranean meatball, sandwich ($8.95), Portobello mushroom sandwich ($8.95), a variety of salads ($8.95), and soup ($3.95). There are many vegetarian options.
Desert Rose has a small market offering both homemade foods and unique retail items, such as olive oils, infused salts, and sauces. McHugh says look for more of a selection this summer, as well as outdoor seating.
I will surely return on a pleasant summer night to enjoy the hummus and pita while dining al fresco.