Cincinnati’s most distinguished lineup of chain restaurants sits along Beechmont Avenue in Anderson. Luckily, sandwiched between Carrabba’s and Pieology is locally owned and operated Leyla’s Mediterranean.
Let me walk you through your first impression. “Welp, it’s definitely in a shopping center,” you’ll think. Then words like “modest” and “unassuming” and, well, let’s just say it—“small”—will float to the top of your mind. “But oh, the inside is cozy isn’t it?” Yep, and clean, and bright, and full of colorful decorations, which you’ll have only a moment to survey before you're greeted by the hostess and whisked to your table.
From here on, it’s all about the food. In case the name didn’t give it away, Leyla’s serves Mediterranean, though everything except the Baklava skews more Turkish than Greek. And it’s very good. First, you’ll be presented with a warm loaf of bread and a dish of spicy, citrusy dipping oil. Exercise some restraint here, it’d be easy to fill up before the first course.
That first course will ideally consist of the appetizer sampler, a plate of creamy hummus, baba ghanoush, acili ezme, and lebne divided by cucumbers. This is where you get crazy with the bread. It’s also where you'll start getting full. Yes, it happens this early, because the portions are ginormous.
Moving on to entrées, the falafel dinner is ideal for vegetarians. Its featured croquettes sing with garlic, dill, and parsley, and the accompanying tahini sauce is exceptional.
Non-vegetarians should head for the grilled entrées. These are essentially meat cornucopias with sides of rice, dressed salad, and blackened bell peppers. The shish kebab—marinated and grilled cubes of lamb—is probably the one you’re looking for if you want that authentic Mediterranean taste. But don’t sleep on the Turkish flatbreads, because they’re charred and delectable.
Lastly, we come to the baklava. Oh, what baklava... Flaky, nutty, and perfectly layered, they’re served in a pool of honey between piped lines of whipped cream. And they would function as the perfect end of your meal were there not sweet, syrupy Turkish coffee on its way.
And that is how you do Mediterranean food in Anderson.
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Leyla’s Mediterranean is located at 7418 Beechmont Avenue (45255).