In another effort in fulfilling goals set in the past, I've finally gotten around to talking about Raffe's Deli. Like my last post about The Silly Goose, this doesn't qualify as a "Finally" themed review because it was never a top priority for the blog. However, because of unique circumstances that required my attention in East Memphis, I took an opportunity to follow up on something that I started 3½ years ago (if foursquare...errr "Swarm" (an unneeded evolution of the app) is correct).
For my first visit to Raffe's in years, I thought about getting a sub or some other type of sandwich. But with the likelihood that my next visits being far down the road, I made the most of my lunch by getting something unusual as it relates to the blog. I got a gyro with a Middle Eastern twist, something that doesn't have the typical Greek tzatziki sauce that usually is associated with it. Instead, along with the vertically roasted lamb, the Syrian Gyro has hummus and a mix of vegetables, herbs and spices. Collectively called a tabbouleh salad, it mainly consists of parsley (a lot of it), chopped tomatoes, mint, onions and bulgur, a grain indigenous to Syria and other countries near it. According to Wikipedia, bulgur has more fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals than white rice, meaning it is a healthier alternative. Within the tabbouleh salad, the bulger is one of many components that make the gyro salty and zesty, balanced by the sweetness of the lemon juice in it. Overall, I like the Syrian Gyro because it is savory and much healthier than what I normally eat. For anyone looking for something different yet tasty, I suggest giving the pita sandwich a try.
SIDE NOTE: The tabbouleh salad is available as a stand alone entrée and is one of Raffe's vegetarian dishes. Speaking of that, the deli's "grape leaves" (aka sarma, not to be confused with dolma) is another vegetarian/vegan dish that is worth trying. The leaves are stuffed with rice and herbs and boiled with lemon juice and served with tzatziki sauce or a yogurt. By the way, sarma isn't technically a vegetarian dish, for it's traditionally stuffed with minced meat like beef, pork and veal. Although I haven't had the Middle Eastern dish at Raffe's, I had a plate of them at Sean's Cafe several years ago that amounted to an interesting experience. From what I could remember, the stuffed grape leaves were decent despite being a bit bland without the tzatziki sauce. Of course, I'm not prejudging Raffe's sarma but it's something that I will keep in mind if and when I get them.
The muffaletta that I had during my last visit was pretty good, too. For some reason, I thought it would be bigger (when comparing it to sandwiches from places like Kwik Chek). However, the muffaletta was hearty enough to satisfy my appetite, even without sides like potato chips. It has the usual stuff like salami, ham and cheese (in this case, Provolone). However, the one ingredient that really makes it tasty is the olive salad dressing with its strong and robust flavor. Compared to other muffalettas that I've had, Raffe's version is one of the better ones.
Lastly, I want to mention the wide variety of craft beers that Raffe's Deli offers. Whether you're looking for something local or an exotic export, it's likely that Raffe's has it. Among them are beers from Rogue Ales that includes the yummy Hazelnut Brown Nectar. However, it's hard to offer everything to everyone (for example, the deli doesn't carry Rodenbach, a Flemish sour ale and another favorite that's sold at Cash Saver and bars like The Flying Saucer) but a beer lover can get a lot of satisfaction from Raffe's offerings. By the way, any beer bought at the deli can't be consumed on the premises, but that shouldn't be a problem for most (although Lucchesi's Beer Garden next door can meet the need for instant gratification with its beer menu).
Regardless of whether you want food or beer, Raffe's Deli has you covered. Owner Sean Feizkhah (who's not involved with Sean's Cafe) is doing a great job with the deli and has big plans for its future. According to the Memphis Flyer, he plans to expand the menu to include Persian (Feizkhah is of Iranian descent) and Turkish fare and add a growler (as in a big jug) station to sell beer by the gallon. Given the improvements that he's already made in terms of the deli's decor, I'm confident that he'll transform it into something sensational.
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Labels: Beer, Deli, East Memphis, Greek, Middle Eastern, Pita Wraps, Salads, Sandwiches, Vegetarian/Vegan
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