by Mike Sula
Bridgeview's Jordanian-Palestinian Al Bawadi Grill is widely, and rightly, praised for its hardwood lump charcoal-grilled meats, sometimes at the expense of other worthy things on its big menu, namely the makdous, stuffed oil-cured baby eggplants. Traditionally these are put up in the fall pickling season, known as mouneh in Lebanon, and eaten months later. At Al Bawadi they're stuffed with crushed walnuts, red pepper, and garlic and served sectioned on the plate, tangy, spicy, and quite meaty themselves, and an ideal pickly counterpoint to the kebabs.
Al Bawadi is generally regarded as the 800-pound gorilla of Middle Eastern restaurants, though I know some who have argued recently that the newer, excellent Almawal (run by former AB principals) is usurping the crown. I'm not too worried about it. Last Saturday I stopped in before my Turkish Delight adventure, and the one-time Arby's was jam-packed with folks eating under the tented booths. There is the somewhat corny, Disneyesque feel to the place, with servers strutting around in keffiyeh and shoulder holsters, but you can't help but get into the spirit when one pours you a gratis thimble cup of cardamom-spiked coffee or delivers the complimentary relish tray of eggplant spread, turshi and olives, and spiced pita chips.
As I said, the best dishes are the mesquite-grilled meats, fat, juicy kebabs plated generously over two kinds of rice and swaddled in crepelike markook. But the menu is loaded with other good things: breakfast items like the tomatoey saute gallaya and fatah hummus, or the Syrian cheese-and-beef-stuffed pita pockets known as arayes, the potato-garlic puree muthawama, generous fresh salads, and fresh-squeezed fruit-juice cocktails.
Al Bawadi Grill, 7216 W. 87th, Bridgeview, 708-599-1999