by Anthony Harrison
Rattle off some traditional Irish pub grub in your head.
You probably thought of fish and chips, bangers and mash or corned beef hash.
Not falafel and tabouli.
But, as strange as it is, that’s what I’m endorsing: falafel and tabouli from an Irish pub.
Middle Eastern cuisine has grown in popularity in this country and across the world for the past few decades, as evidenced by the endurance of restaurants like Greensboro’s Ghassan’s or Jack’s Corner.
Falafel especially gained favor as a protein-packed, vegetarian alternative to meat. And tabouli salad, while not as ubiquitous as the chickpea wonder, serves as a tasty and simple side dish.
It was mild and gloomy when I went to M’Coul’s Public House in Greensboro last week, and due to the weather, I was thinking about trying one of the traditional favorites. Something hearty might have sated the late-winter blues, I thought.
But as I sipped a Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA, M’Coul’s tabouli salad seemed like a good complement. And I figured if I was planning on a Levantine salad as my side, I might as well go whole-hog and order their falafel wrap.
Needless to say, no matter how counterintuitive, the Irish pub did not disappoint in delivering Middle Eastern flavors.
Their tabouli came in a tiny bowl, but it was surprisingly filling. Loads of chopped parsley and mint mingled with couscous and minced cucumbers. They even provided a wedge of lemon for a citrusy, Mediterranean top-off.
The falafel wrap, though, surprised me even further. On a bed of leaf lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, the falafel portion was tremendous. I wound up having to use a fork to finish the falafel after the warm, grilled pita had done its duty to the fullest.
Aside from the portion size, the falafel was about as good as one could expect — savory, herbaceous and complex with a subtle cumin heat complemented by a spicy remoulade.
If you go to M’Coul’s, you may be tempted by all the traditional offerings. Granted, the shepherd’s pie is delicious, and the fish and chips are damn good.
But let me say, here and now: Try something unexpected, and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.