All you have to do is walk in, order and watch as your meal is assembled right in front of you. Local restaurants such as Boaz Cafe in Ohio City have adopted a fast-casual approach with easy-to-navigate menus and fresh ingredients. “People want value, and they are on a time frame,” says owner Paul Chamoun. “They want to get in and customize their meal.” His new spot offers build-your-own Middle Eastern-inspired pitas or bowls with more than 20 ingredients. We embraced the trend and constructed our favorite bowl ($6) below. 2549 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-458-9225, boazcafe.com
1. Mango Cilantro Dressing
This house-made dressing — offering a cool, creamy finish — is Boaz Cafe’s most popular. “It’s a thicker dressing made with mango juice mixed with crushed cilantro and black pepper,” Chamoun says.
2. Pickled Turnips
The best thing about these might just be the spectacular bite they add to the bowl. That crunch, Chamoun says, is a result of the way the turnips are sliced. “They have a nice thick cut so you get that crunch on top.”
3. Fresh Bean Mix
This mixture of fava beans, white beans and kidney beans with parsley is marinated in a house dressing that has a delicious hint of mint. “It has kind of a zesty zing that you get from the lemon juice in the olive oil dressing,” he says.
The kitchen staff soaks fresh chickpeas in water overnight and then blends them the next day to get the freshest hummus possible. “It adds a nice, kind of saucy pureed flavor to the bowl,” says Chamoun.
5. Beef Shawarma
This carefully seasoned beef sirloin originates on a farm in Mount Vernon, Ohio. It’s seasoned with vinegar, olive oil and a special blend of spices. “Then we shred it,” he says. “It’s very, very tender.”
6. Lentils & Rice
This layer of green lentils and brown rice with onions and extra-virgin olive oil is great for people who don’t want to eat meat, since it adds protein. “It’s not super absorbent like white rice would be,” says Chamoun. “This has a bit of a chew to it.”
A dressing-free spring mix gives the bowl a base and takes on all the flavors above it. “It’s just a bit of texture at the bottom of the bowl,”
More Fast-casual Spots:
Cultivate: 524 E. Washington St., Chagrin Falls, 440-394-8662, cultivate4life.com
Raving Med: 1621 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-350-6050, ravingmed.com
Rebol: 101 W. Superior Ave., Cleveland, 216-505-5898, wearerebol.com