Are your taste buds asking for something different for lunch or dinner? Tired of the same old, same old, day after day, and perhaps really haven’t decided what you’d like to try? Or, maybe you have a special date with someone you’d like to impress? May I suggest that you try Sol Mediterranean Grill at 4230 Calder in Beaumont, owned and managed by long-time food guru Dave Jones.
I’ll admit that when I was given the assignment to write about really good Mediterranean food, I did not quite know what to expect, and especially so in Beaumont. The last real Mediterranean meal I had eaten personally was in Detroit, Mich., in a little hideaway tucked into a busy business district. A man who was in town organizing large conventions had taken us there, and he had the scoop on all things good to eat. I was favorably impressed and wondered where I could eat that style of food again. I now have the answer right in my own back yard, so to speak.
When I arrived at Sol, the first thing I noticed was that the parking lot was literally full of cars and I had to drive around twice before finding a place to park my vehicle. Inside, there was a mixture of all age groups from young children to grandmothers and grandfathers. There were even a couple of reporters inside chowing down on whatever they had selected. That was a very good sign.
Greeted by manager Brock Neireiter, who comes to Sol with 16 years of experience in the restaurant industry, I quickly scanned the menu and made my selection. I chose an authentic Greek salad, but had wonderful “things” added to it by the waitstaff. I admit I could not pronounce some of the words for the vegetables and toppings I selected, but that was not a problem. I need not fear. Others in the line could not either.
Neireiter suggested that I top the salad off with my choice of lamb, steak or chicken from one of the large spits or shawarma cookers in open view of the customers. Large cone-shaped portions of the various meats were slowly cooking. The juices flowed downward, allowing the meat to marinate and cook on the outer layer inward, creating a one-of-a-kind taste sensation that is difficult to describe. I was told that the juices also provide the perfect concoction for cooking tomatoes, onions and other things that go into the delicious food.
In talking with business owner Jones, who is also involved in seven different Novrozsky’s restaurants in the area, the shawarma style of cooking and serving has just gotten a big boost from the popular “The Avengers” movie. It seems that even superheroes enjoy eating shawarma food, and moviegoers can hear and see the evidence. Jones said that you have to stay for the credits after the film to get the full effect, but there has been a run on the shawarma restaurants since the superhero boost.
In the movie, Iron Man asks Captain America, “Have you ever tried shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I want to try it.” The filmmakers also snuck in a little footage, following the credits, of the stars hanging out and digging into some meat pita with toppings like hummus, tabbouleh and tahini. According to TMZ, sales of shawarma in L.A. went “through the roof the weekend after the debut of the movie.” One shawarma restaurant claimed that sales increased by 80 percent.
Customers did seem intrigued by the cooking of the meat and enjoyed seeing lamb, beef or chicken from the cookers put into a pita wrap, popular pizzas, the Mediterranean plate or the salad, which I had for lunch. Falafel is also served, along with delicious roasted vegetables. Sauces include tzaziki salice, tahini salice, ranch and aioli. The inviting toppings include hummus, coliscolis, tabolili, spinach, mixed greens, red cabbage slaw, sumac onions, sun-dried tomatoes, black bean mango salad, Spanish eggplant, kalamata olives, cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese and mozzarella cheese.
The grape leaves with feta cheese were popular additions to many orders, as were the hummus and pita chips. Kids’ pizzas are available, and little ones delight in them. Desserts include baklava and huge fresh-baked cookies. Soft drinks, bottled water and a good variety of beer and wine await the customers.
Both the manager and the owner agreed that the No. 1 favorite of many customers are the delicious gyros that can be made using the beef, chicken or lamb in a white or wheat wrap and the toppings, which make them so tasty.
Phyllis Jorgensen and granddaughter Emma Permenter, age 9, seemed to be truly enjoying their meal. Emma had a cheese pizza while Jorgensen had chosen the Mediterranean plate. Emma loved her pizza but did sneak several bites of the beef from her grandmother’s plate and told me in confidence that she was ordering beef next time she came. “It’s really good,” said the little lady with a big smile.
Other diners chose the outdoor patio for a different setting for their lunch and were enjoying the bright sunshine and the good food. The restaurant, which has only been open for three weeks, features a drive-through window for those in a hurry and for take-out service. “We also cater,” said Jones, “and will work with customers to meet their needs. We are constantly adding to our beer and wine stock and are happy that the long construction on Calder is finally coming to an end.” Jones had owned another restaurant in the same location prior to Hurricane Ike, and after the storm decided to do something different.
He flew to Chicago and other places to try new and different foods and to determine what might be a helpful and fun addition to the eateries in Beaumont. Jones has been in the food industry since he was 21 and has enjoyed great successes with his Novrozsky’s restaurants both in Southeast Texas and western Louisiana. “It is all about the customer,” he said. “We want to offer good, fresh food, cooked well, seasoned with care, using tried-and-true recipes, and served in a comfortable, family atmosphere.Jones is married to Suzanne and has four sons and one daughter. He said that one of his sons actually came up with the name of the new restaurant. “We chose Sol for sun and light, and I think it will catch on big in Beaumont,” he said. “Once people get over the idea that they really do not know what Mediterranean cooking might taste like, they’ll come in and try it.”
And, I might add, don’t worry about not being able to pronounce the names of the additions you want. The staff will gladly help you. After all, if shawarma cooking pleases the palettes of the superheroes, what’s not to like?
Sol is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. seven days a week. Call (409) 898-8688 to pre-order food for take out or drive through orders.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.