By Bob Wilhelmy
The mushroom sauté entrée, including a bottle of the Lebanese Ksara wine.
Did you know that Lebanon’s hillside vineyards are some of the oldest in the world? The prophet Hosea, an Israelite who lived in the 700s B.C., is said to have urged his followers to return to Yahweh so that “they will blossom as the vine, and their fragrance will be like the wine of Lebanon.”
That was a while ago, huh? And the reference is among the first in historical chronicles to mention wine and the science or art of viticulture (grape-growing). Today, Lebanon produces some 600,000 cases of wine for domestic and export markets.
Andy’s Mediterranean Grill is one place you can enjoy those exported Lebanese wines. “We are going to feature the wines of Lebanon exclusively, except for a few house wines we will offer by the glass, from Chile,” said Majed Hajjar, a principal at Andy’s. Some of those wine grapes are grown in and around the Andy’s family hometown of Zhhle, Lebanon.
One of the dining room areas at Andy’s.
The wines, under the Ksara label, are ideal for pairings with Andy’s style of Mediterranean foods, according to Majed. “We have them because they are special wines and the wines of Lebanon are good with the foods we serve here. You cannot get that at every restaurant,” he said.
Along with the wines, Andy’s now features draft beers. The selection on the day we visited included: Redd’s apple ale, Leinenkugel’s seasonal brew, Yuengling lager, Goose Island seasonal, Rivertown seasonal, Sam Adams seasonal, Sierra Nevada pale ale, and Moerlein Lagerhouse beer.
If you are thinking of heading to Andy’s for dinner, you may want to take advantage of Monday and Tuesday dining from 6 to 9 p.m., when buying one entrée will net you half off on a second one. There is a deal on Thursday nights as well: buy an entrée and Andy’s will spring for an appetizer, free of charge, such as the spanakopita, featuring spinach and feta cheese in a flaky phyllo pie.
Jewish diners will find a lot of choices on Andy’s menu. One dish I tried recently is the new mushroom sauté, a vegetarian entrée of white cap button mushrooms sautéed in olive oil. The generous helping of mushrooms is served on a bed of seasoned, tasty rice, and ringed with chunks of fresh tomato and kalamata olives. This new dish is flavorful, and the fresh-baked pita bread adds the finishing touch to an unusual, yet delicious meatless meal.
The mushroom sauté is one of five veggie entrée selections on Andy’s new menu, according to Majed Hajjar. “We expanded the vegetarian section of our menu,” he said. “There is more interest in good flavors and lightly seasoned dishes for those who want meals without meat. And people like the dishes we have added.”
In addition to the mushroom sauté, vegetarian options include: the falafel platter; the veggie trio, featuring a large house salad with additions of hummus, baba ghannoush or grape leaves; the veggie kabob, served with rice; and the veggie sauté, featuring eggplant, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, tomato, bell pepper cauliflower and seasonings, over rice.
Pizzas also are of the veggie type, although meats can be added to some. The Lebanese version is made on a pita-bread crust, while the other varieties feature fresh-made, hand-tossed crusts, in Greek, Italian and Spanish flavors. All ingredients are fresh, making for very good flavor combos.
Andy’s menu offers many new items to complement the vegetarian section. A couple of the most popular ones are chicken dishes. The chicken filet sauté features a boneless chicken breast, lightly seasoned and prepared with a sauté of onion, mushrooms, red wine and olive oil. The other new dish is the Beyrouth chicken, which again is a delicately seasoned breast, with garlic and lemon juice providing the flavor. The dish is served with a salad and hummus.
Andy’s also features some non-food attractions. One is belly dancing entertainment, offered on Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 7:30. Those who want to light up can do so in outdoor patio areas, selecting a hookah from Andy’s stock or a cigar from the new humidor. Patio dining also is available.