New restaurants open all the time. It didn’t use to be that way.
Oklahoma City was, for many years, a place dedicated to the chain restaurant. If something new opened up, there was probably another one across town or, barring that, in Tulsa or Dallas or Kansas City.
When the rush of new eateries, I, like everyone else, became obsessed with the novelty. This place has duck-fat fries and that place makes food from a country I’m only marginally sure is in Asia and on and on and on.
“Are you...saying we shouldn’t try new restaurants? That’s a BOLD move for a website that thrives on having new restaurants to review.”
Ha, yeah, that would be pretty dumb.
No, by all means, try new restaurants. I love new restaurants. I love looking through new menus and trying a chef’s take on an old classic.
This website is here because I adore dining out. But that includes spots both old and new. And today I want to talk to you about someplace old: Cous Cous Cafe.
It’s not ancient, or anything, but Cous Cous Cafe has put in the years and built a solid customer base by doing Moroccan and Mediterranean food that it intensely craveable.
And the not-so-old girl recently got a facelift and an expansion, opening up the restaurant with more natural light and a dining room that feels relaxed and open.
Oklahoma City’s Mediterranean scene is solid. Newcomers like Jerusalem and Baba G are great additions to a deep roster of spots like Camilya’s Cafe, Mediterranean Deli and Nunu’s. But the spot I go back to most often is Cous Cous.
I was going to say, “Before you do anything, order the mint tea,” but then I started thinking about how weird that would look. What kind of sociopath runs in, right to the counter, and starts demanding mint tea instead of sitting and waiting patiently for a server to come by?
Is that you? Don’t do that. It’s okay to wait.
Look at the pictures on the wall. Is that Morgan Freeman? And, if so, why is there a large picture of Morgan Freeman up in this restaurant? I like Morgan Freeman as much as the next guy. He’s been in some great movies and more than a few not-so-great movies.
Did you ever see “Now You See Me”? Can you believe that they called the sequel “Now You See Me 2” and not “Now You Don’t,” which would have been the logical title for the seq-
Oh look, here comes the server. See? You could wait. Good for you.
Hot or cold, the mint tea is a delight. It requires no extra sweetener. It’s just wonderful tea. I wish I had some right now.
While you’re getting tea, you might as well order some soup to start. I quite like the lentil soup ($3.50), with its tender lentils and the smoky flavor of the spices. It’s hearty. Perfect for a cold day.
The harrira soup ($3.50) is also a treat. It’s a bit thinner, more broth-based, with pasta and peas and slow-simmered vegetables that melt on the tongue.
Cous Cous’s kitchen isn’t slow, really, but the servers know how to space your meal out, so if you get soup, you don’t have to worry about getting your entrees at the same time. That may seem like a little thing, but those little things add up.
You should definitely get the hummus ($2.50 small, $3.95 large), because hummus is good. Even mediocre hummus is pretty tasty, but this is very good hummus. Extremely creamy and well seasoned, with a nice pile of toasted pita for you to dip. Maybe get the large, because you might want to dip this next item…
Burritos ($5.95) are not, by and large, considered Mediterranean food. But Cous Cous wraps up a mean burrito regardless.
The falafel at Cous Cous is some of my favorite in the metro, especially in this burrito, which holds the soft, crumbly chickpea patty firm in a bed of rice, salad and hummus all wrapped up in a flour tortilla.
Or tortillas, I guess, because you actually get two hand-held burritos when you order this. It’s truly one of my favorite dishes here. I tend to get the gyro burrito, because that’s who I am and I won’t apologize, but both are tasty.
If you want a more traditional gyro ($4.99), they have that, too. It comes with fries (delicious) and the gyro is carved really thick. It’s almost like planks of gyro meat, which gives the sandwich a different texture.
Look, I’m never going to be upset at a gyro, so long as they don’t skimp on the meat. Cous Cous does not skimp on the meat. They also don’t skimp on the salad, which is nice. I get that lettuce, tomato and onion are probably the least-interesting part of a gyro for most people, but having a lot of crisp lettuce, juicy tomato and sharp onion is what gives that fatty, deeply spiced meat such balance. Without it, a gyro just isn’t that interesting.
Speaking of interesting, let me tell you about a dish called Chicken Bastilla ($11.99). As the name implies, it involves chicken. It’s a Moroccan chicken pie, except it isn’t sure if it’s supposed to be savory or sweet.
Inside, there’s saffron-infused shredded chicken, crushed almonds and puff pastry. On top, there’s a design of cinnamon and powdered sugar.
I don’t know if I’d order this again, what with my slavish devotion to gyro burritos, but it was definitely fun to try. If you’re looking for the real real Moroccan cuisine, this is it.
And if you want another singular dish to try, get a side of zaalook ($2.50). It’s a spiced, cooked eggplant salad/dip that has a ton of sweet and savory notes. I’m not going to give up my hummus, but zaalook can definitely join the party.
New restaurants come and, sadly, new restaurants go. But solid staples like Cous Cous Cafe are the immortal standards by which other restaurants must be measured.
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6165 N. May Ave., Oklahoma City
11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
Lentil soup - $3.50
Zaalook - $2.50
Hummus - $2.50
Falafel burrito - $5.95
Gyro sandwich - $4.99