On a busy night, about 70 percent of the business at Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen—on the Locust Point end of Federal Hill— is carryout. Good thing, as it’s hard to imagine owner Farid Salloum making a substantial living in this tiny, inexpensive place, even with a steady stream of customers packed into the five tables and handful of seats at the counter. We felt fortunate indeed to be among the 30 percent or so dining in on a recent night.
Mint green on the outside, exposed brick inside, Baba’s has colorful touches like glass-beaded curtains, a wall of brightly painted tile, and a chalkboard with the entire menu listed in a rainbow of hues.
Baba’s, named for Salloum’s father (technically, the word means “father” in Arabic), is a cheerful place, with a small menu derived from points around the Mediterranean. While there’s a nod to Italy in the Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, most dishes lean toward Greece and the Middle East—all simply presented and made with fresh ingredients.
We started with a shared appetizer plate: surprisingly moist falafel, topped with tahini; traditional dolmas (rice-stuffed grape leaves); and spanakopita, long on the buttery pastry, short on the feta and spinach within. There was also a heap of hummus; we wiped the plate clean with chewy, paper-thin layers of pita.
Pita appears again as “Pitzas”—bread crisped in the oven and topped pizza-like with a variety of ingredients, including mozzarella, oregano, and tomato sauce (ciao again, Italy!); “Fareed’s falafel” (yes, the owner has named a signature dish after himself, though with a different spelling); and the Mediterranean, piled with artichoke hearts, spinach, basil, red peppers, and feta cheese.
Most preparations are available as “platters,” served on a bed of rice or a chopped salad with a side of hummus, or wrapped in pita. The rosemary beef is tender with a creamy mushroom sauce and a strong rosemary infusion, and the gently marinated lamb kebab with a Greek yogurt-dill sauce is equally succulent.
Baba’s is BYO, and while a bottle of wine may prolong a meal, we noticed that even imbibing diners were mindful of the limited seating. At one point, there were a handful of parties waiting for tables, but soon enough, everyone was contentedly seated.
Dining here is a casual undertaking. Orders are placed at the counter, though when it’s busy, Salloum will jot down requests, maybe lingering to chat about the menu or point to the black-and-white portraits of his parents, grandparents, and other family members on the walls.
While the dishes are influenced by tradition, and many recipes come from family, the restaurant also is tuned into current trends, using local ingredients and recyclable carryout containers. The kitchen also accommodates vegan and gluten-free diets. We have to say, if we lived nearby, we’d be regulars at Baba’s.
Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen, 745 E. Fort Ave., 410-727-7482. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat.; 12-8 p.m. Sun. Appetizers: $4-7; sandwiches: $6-7; platters: $9-11; desserts: $3-4. BYOB.