Hearty lunch buffet a staple of Casablanca's success
Casablanca joined the Brady Street dining family in late 2005, after long stints on Mitchell Street and on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood. And the Middle Eastern restaurant seems to be holding strong at 728 E. Brady St., a spot that has seen numerous turnovers over the years, from Sherman's on Brady to Tarantino's Beyond the Sea, to Di Salvo & Brennan's, the short-lived Rudolph Valentino's, and the more recent Club 728.
The dinner menu here is heavily carnivorous, featuring several varieties of lamb -- roasted, kebabs, shawarma and lamb steak -- as well as chicken bathed in garlic, spices, onions and crushed berries and tenderloin kebabs.
The weekday lunch buffet, however, is another animal entirely.
For $6.95, the all-you-can eat buffet seems an endless array of completely vegetarian and vegan options, from the usual offerings of hummus, couscous, babaghannoj (baked eggplant pureed with tahini, olive oil, lemon and garlic) and perfectly fried falafel (ground chick peas and vegetables, formed into balls and deep fried with Middle Eastern spices), to more usual -- yet delectably smelling -- entrees such as tahini pasta (dairy-free), eggplant potatoes, mixed vegetable stew, spinach pie and sweet carrots baked with garlic vegetable sauce.
The buffet features a nice selection of Middle Eastern desserts like baklava (layers of filo dough stuffed with nuts and honey), harissa (cinnamon honey cake) and kanasa (shredded filo dough with nuts, honey and cinnamon.)
"We experiment with different things. We offer the favorite dishes, but we're always working to create new recipes that the customers will like, too," says Omar Musa, the floor manager at Casablanca.
Thankfully, the restaurant identifies each item on the line with a place card above each dish.
There is such an abundance of offerings at Casablanca that it's easy to fill your plate with the various salads -- Jerusalem, taboleh, potato and yogurt cucumber -- before even reaching the soups: a savory lentil with a hint of lemon and a hearty mixed vegetable stew.
Experienced buffet diners go light on the sides, saving stomach space for the restaurant's real highlights like the bed of couscous covered with a combo of stewed eggplant, zucchini, carrots, onions and chick peas in a tomato sauce, or the hand stuffed grape leaves -- which, on the dinner menu, come vegetarian or stuffed with seasoned ground beef, onions and rice.
The lunch buffet begins when the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. and most days the dining room is bustling even before the noon hour. Still, even at almost capacity, Casablanca retains a very pleasant, calming atmosphere, with soft Middle Eastern music playing through the spacious, clean room. Though clearly a hopping lunchtime hotspot amongst business professionals and families alike, the experience never feels rushed. Dining here is a true delight.
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