published Friday, August 12th, 2011

Taziki's is a cool Mediterranean departure

IF YOU GO

Where: Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe, 423 Market St.

Phone: 423-779-3100.

Website: www.tazikiscafe.com.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 a.m. Sunday.

Price range: $3.30 (Taziki dip) to $9.75 (grilled beef tenderloin).

Alcohol: Beer and wine.

As the heat of the summer continues to bear down on the Chattanooga area, the need for a light meal can become a real necessity.

Fortunately for those visiting downtown, Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe offers refreshing fare and a good cost.

The small chain was founded in Birmingham, Ala., by Keith and Amy Richards in the late 1990s after they took a vacation to Greece, and the restaurant specializes in healthier meals using fresh ingredients.

The Chattanooga location, on Market Street, seems to have attracted a steady business since opening recently, and it was a pleasant place to escape the heat for lunch on a recent Sunday.

The Menu

The menu at Taziki's is slightly exotic if you're used to the meat-and-three or barbecue restaurants that dominate the scene locally, but the food is fresh and good once you give it a try.

Gyros are a big part of the menu, with chicken, beef and lamb as well as fish and vegetarian options available.

Appetizers include hummus and dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice, onions and seasonings), and a selection of salads are available as well.

For entrees, grilled meat and fish prepared with light seasoning are served with a Greek salad and either rice or roasted potatoes.

There also are daily specials served with chips and a side item that seem geared for the lunch crowd.

Beverages include iced tea and soda, as well as wine and beer. Desert at a Greek-inspired restaurant naturally includes baklava, along with a dark chocolate cake.

For those who don't want to dine at the restaurant, Taziki's offers "Fresh Feasts for 4" which can be ordered before 2 p.m. and picked up after 4. The meals come with freshly prepared meat, salad and sides, and $20-$27.50 is a very reasonably priced meal for a small family.

The order: For lunch on a Sunday, the meal started with the Taziki dip, a chilled cucumber- and dill-flavored dip served with baked or fresh pita slices. The dip is light and flavorful without being too overpowering.

The daily special served Friday through Sunday is the Friday Pasta. Penne pasta and grilled chicken is served over a bed of lettuce, tomatoes and feta cheese and tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.

The dressing was a bit strong, but the pasta and chicken were well prepared and the produce was fresh and crisp. All told, it was a light-but-filling lunch.

The space

The restaurant is located on Market Street near the intersection at Fifth Street. Long tables can accommodate larger groups, but smaller tables are available downstairs as well as in the upstairs loft seating area.

Large windows allow diners to look out and people-watch along Market Street and at the Jack's Alley area across the street.

Diners order at the register when they arrive before seating themselves. The friendly staff delivers meals to the table and cleans away the dishes after.

The verdict

Certainly, Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe is a casual restaurant and is probably best suited for lunch or a light early dinner.

The food is fresh and well prepared and presented, and the staff is friendly and helpful without intruding on the dining experience.

The daily specials are nice, and the fully prepared meals to go could be a nice change-of-pace meal for a busy family too busy to cook some evening.

If you're looking for something a little different and want a taste of the Greek Islands, Taziki's could be just the meal you're looking for.

about Jim Tanner...

Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...

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