In order to flourish, Mediterranean chefs have adapted their style to match their seaside region—much like the gilled mail carriers that swim between Greek islands. Dine on culinary evolution with today's Groupon. Choose from two options:
- For $15, you get $30 worth of Lebanese fare and drinks at Byblos Cafe in South Tampa.
- For $5, you get $10 worth of casual Mediterranean dishes at Byblos Pitas in University Square.
Amid an atmosphere of beige and burgundy walls accented with hookahs, draperies, and other Mediterranean flourishes, Byblos Cafe serves up a menu of traditional Lebanese cuisine. Start by sampling a smorgasbord of mezah dishes such as labneh, a thick yogurt prepared with olive oil, dried mint, and garlic ($5.95), or a falafel with herbs and tahini sauce ($5.95). For lunch, office escapees can experiment with a plate of ground-beef kafta kebab ($8.95) or the rice- and vegetable-stuffed grape leaves ($6.95). Dinnertime diners can choose from entrees such as the sliced and marinated chicken or beef shawarma ($15.95), baby lamb shanks with vegetables and basmati rice ($19.95), and a grilled fillet of pangasius served with batata harra ($16.95). Defuse sweet teeth before they detonate with a dessert of rich baklava ($2.95) or ismaliah, a dish of ricotta cheese and shredded filo dough topped with syrup and pistachios ($4.95). A full bar will quench the throat-fires that inevitably erupt when shouting the magic word "Opa!", and zill-clicking belly dancers entertain diners throughout the restaurant every Friday and Saturday night.
The café also accommodates more on-the-go eaters with its offshoot, Byblos Pitas, which combines the convenience of fast-food joints with the vitamin-rich nutrients of chickpea spreads and tabouleh in a bright, casual eating space. Hungry patrons will barely have to interrupt their chase scenes as they scan the menu for lamb and beef gyros ($5.95), char-grilled chicken kebab wraps ($6.50), and roasted-eggplant-stuffed baba gannouj pitas ($5.50). Diners looking to exercise handheld tridents and shovels can dig into hearty portions of feta-topped Greek salads ($5.95) and savory red lentil soup ($3.50). For added entertainment, the open kitchen lets you watch your order's components join together like robotic lions combining to form a giant mechanized defender that combats cases of the munchies.
The Tampa Tribune love Byblos Cafe, and the St. Petersburg Times named it an Editors Pick and one of the Best of 2006. Eight Yelpers give Byblos Cafe an average of four stars, as does Creative Loafing. Citysearchers give it 4.5 stars.
- Byblos' food is styled Mediterranean, but the food sticks to the staples of their end of that sea: stuffed grape leaves, falafel, hummus and such, each made on the premises with polish and tradition. – Chris Sherman, St. Petersburg Times
- The dips were wonderfully fresh and tasty, as was the delightful tabbouleh, my favorite dish, which gave off a cheery Christmas-y aura, with its deep green parsley and bright bits of tomato. – Sara Kennedy, Creative Loafing