David Luhrssen
(11.19.2009)

Casablanca has much to offer, starting with its weekday vegetarian lunch buffet and its omnivorous Sunday brunch buffet. The extensive menu of Near Eastern delicacies is both authentic and well prepared.

The bar is a comfortable hideaway, usually with Arab music videos streaming quietly from a pair of screens. The hookahs are yet another attraction.

Casablanca (728 E. Brady St.) offers outdoor seating, a lounge where it’s possible to smoke from a water pipe, and a pleasant dining room. The large menu, which is strictly vegetarian on weekdays, sets high standards for Middle Eastern food. A first timer might want to try the weekday lunch or Sunday brunch buffets as an inexpensive way to sample the food. Start with the yellow lentil soup, which is fragrant with cumin, and salads such as tuboleh, Jerusalem salad or cabbage with olive oil and a touch of lemon juice. Then try falafel, hummus and babaghanouj. The vegetarian entrees are enticing, whether made of long-grained basmati rice, eggplant or garlicky carrots. On Sunday the buffet is a bit more expensive, but it adds meat dishes. You might find lamb shanks, baked tilapia or lamb with tahini and potatoes. I prefer to order meat dishes straight from the menu. The schwarma, kifta kabob and chicken sumac are excellent.

Still, at $8.95 on weekdays and $13.95 on Sunday, Casablanca’s buffet is a good value.