One of my favorite casual weeknight meals can be found at Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen. While the original location is in Albany Park, I have only been to the Lincoln Park locale, which is also BYO. Reservations are usually unnecessary; however, given its close proximity to a number of theaters, including Steppenwolf Theater Company and The Royal George Theater, it can fill up and require a wait during pre-theater hours. For some of the best lentil soup and falafel in the city, though, it is worth it.
All of the menu items at Dawali are filled with healthy and fresh ingredients. I have weekly, if not daily, cravings for Dawali’s lentil soup. It is so creamy and flavorful, and always served piping hot, and I need to get my hands on this recipe. Served with a lemon wedge, this soup can make any cold winter’s night instantly warmer. And, no trip to Dawali is complete without an order of its falafel. They are AMAZING! Fresh, warm, and flavorful, these little balls of goodness are what Mediterranean food dreams are made of. Dawali needs to teach classes in falafel making. The tahini served on the side give the falafel a nice nutty flavor, but honestly, they are perfect on their own.
All of the salads are also refreshing and flavorful, especially the cucumber yogurt and tabbouleh iterations. On one occasion, however, the village salad, made up of romaine, cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, and kalamata olives, was littered with unripe tomatoes. However, that is probably what I get for ordering something with raw tomatoes when they are not in season. The grape leaves, on the other hand, homemade and stuffed with rice, tomato, lemon and spices, are perfect to share or as an accompaniment to a soup or salad. The hummus, in either original or spicy, is fresh, creamy, and delicious, especially when scooped up with the complimentary warm pita bread. It is also great as a dip for the falafel.
While all of the vegetarian dishes at Dawali are outstanding, I have found that the meat and seafood dishes can be a bit dry and overcooked. However, I am always so satisfied with everything else that I can overlook those missteps. Prices are also incredible. $3.50 for a bowl of lentil goodness and $0.50 each for the falafel is a great bargain for the flavor and freshness Dawali delivers. If you have not yet checked out this hidden gem, I suggest that you do so soon.
1625 North Halsted Street, Chicago, 60614