Moroccan-style lanterns and Hunts Ketchup bottles serve as center pieces for each of the eight or so tables in Marble Top Cafe. Arabic employees explain Mediterranean dishes such as falafel and gyros in heavily accented voices as Beatles music plays softly in the background. Marble Top Café has found a perfect medium between ethnically original yet approachable to the average Kansas City diner. Nestled into a strip mall at 84th and Ward Parkway where Quiznos used to be, Marble Top Café offers an oasis from mundane American cuisine.
Stepping into the small café with my typical mid-western family, I felt like I was in a new, not entirely comfortable, arena. Scents of foreign spices piqued my curiosity and I felt like an outsider compared to the large, Arabic family who seemed entirely at home, chatting easily with the employees. Those qualms were immediately put to rest as the employees greeted us with genuine smiles and welcomes.
Marble Top Café is similar to Noodles and Company in that guests order at the counter and sit down to wait for their food to be delivered. Once again, I felt out of my element as I read menu items I had hardly heard of: falafel sandwiches, dolma, gyros. The server clearly noticed and was more than willing to explain what everything was. When my mom asked if it was pronounced “her-o” or “gy-ro,” he grinned and laughed good-naturedly, answering that there was no right way.
I ordered the falafel sandwich with fries and peach lemonade; everyone else in my family chose the gyro plate with rice and yogurt sauce. We barely noticed the five or 10 minute wait because there were so many things to observe, hear and smell. Paintings of lemon trees decorate the walls and warm colors add to the cozy atmosphere.
The first bite of the falafel sandwich filled my mouth with warm pita bread, zesty falafel, tomatoes and Tahini sauce. Falafel is fried chickpeas; Tahini sauce is made from sesame seed paste. I gobbled down the first half of my sandwich in between fries. However, once the pita bread cooled and I had eaten about half, the falafel all started to taste the same and lost some of its appeal. Once the thought entered my mind, I saw it as green mush.
Marble Top Café uses a combination of lamb and beef for their meat, which combines to form a lighter beef. Personally, I get a little queasy thinking about eating lamb, but taste-wise, the gyros were similar to beef. For those that do not wish to eat lamb, Marble Top Café also offers chicken gyros. The simplicity of the gyros — meat, vegetables and yogurt sauce — allows the tastes of the different parts to shine and intermingle. As a side, the yellow rice was mediocre; its key strength being the golden raisins sprinkled throughout that add sweetness. Although the rice would be nothing special alone, it complements the flavors of the gyros.
I hardly ever order drinks, but the peach lemonade was something I would definitely order again. It is sweeter than regular lemonade and the peach flavor goes well with the curry-flavored dishes. Marble Top Café knows how to serve foods together from the gyros to the rice to the peach lemonade and baklava. The flavors were all different, yet complemented each other. The sweetness of the lemonade was a contrast to the rich spices of the meat. A flaky, nutty baklava brought my experience of a new and ethnically unique meal to a cozy close.
Three out of Four Stars