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Apr 17, 2003 12:51 PM

Petra Cafe Report

  • m

For lunch today, I tried the newest option for Middle Eastern cuisine in the Loop: Petra Cafe at 331 S. Franklin. Like many casual lunch spots in the Loop, it is a pretty bare bones operation: decor spartan, menu minimalist and the staff a bit disoriented. The food, however, is very good. I tried two appetizers: the falafel and the hummus. One of the posters in the previous thread on Petra noted that his litmus test for a middle eastern restaurant is the falafel, specifically, if it is freshly cooked. It is at Petra. Crisp to the tooth and nicely seasoned. The hummus also was very good. I tend to prefer smooth and rich hummus that is not overpowering in garlic. Petra's satisfied my criteria. My husband had the chicken shawerma entree, which is served with rice, pita and vegetables. The seasonings of the shawerma Oasis Cafe are better, but the quality of Petra's chicken is superior. The menu is pretty standard middle eastern fare: kibbeh, kifta kabab, shish kabob, spinach pies, etc. All in all, Petra is a good addition to this area of the Loop.

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  1. I too have just returned from Petra's. It's is a good addition to the Loop lunchtime dining landscape. I had the falafel sandwich and the lentil soup. Both were pretty good. The soup was far better than that at the Oasis Cafe (which I thought was really bad - too salty...or something). I don't have any particular criteria for quality falafel. But I thought Petra's was on par with Oasis. It was fresh made and tasty. There was a good crowd, but the service was pretty quick. Prices weren't too bad. My meal cost $5.50. All in all, I've had better, but for the Loop it's a step above average.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Geoff

      Petra here I come!

      1. re: Paul Tyksins

        Based on MAG's review, I just got back from there. I don't really have much to add -- it is a "minimalist" operation and from the sound of the owner kvetching about a contracter on the phone, a recent start-up. I decided to stick with a signature dish and ordered a falafel sandwich ($3.25) and a coke (89ยข). The falafel was green on the inside, oh-so crispety (sic), and rather straightforward in terms of seasoning, which is not a bad thing. The other ingredients, including the watery tahini, didn't stand out, but on the whole, I thought the falafel were well-executed -- crunchy without being dry, moist without being greasy.

        I must not know how to eat falafel sandwiches properly because they invariably disintegrate in my hand as I near the bottom of the pita. That did not deter me from ordering another sandwich however, which I did. As for other items on the menu, they offer chicken shawerma, shish taouk (chicken), kifta kabob (lamb), and shisk kabob (beef), which appear in sandwich and full plate configurations. Sandwiches run around the $4 mark while entrees, which average $7.25, will come with a choice of soup or salad, pita, rice, AND a soft drink.

        It's a nice little place for a workday lunch, and I'll certainly go back if the whim for falafel strikes. with Taste of Lebanon so close to my home, I wouldn't make a special trip, however.

        Petra Cafe
        331 S. Franklin
        (312) 913-9660
        (312) 913-9662/fax
        (Apparently, from the takeout menu, they cater)

    2. Had lunch at Petra's last Wednesday. A very enjoyable meal. Had lamb and beef Shish Kabob plate. The lamb was a bit chewy, but very flavorful and juicy. The beef was the better of the two.l It was extremely tender and had a rich beef flavor. It came over like chunks of deliciously marinated beef tenderloin. The sides, hummus, salad and rice were all delicious. My wife had a chicken and pesto sandwich which she praised. I would definitely stop there again.