The stars aligned on Saturday to land us at Sahara in Michigan City. I had to attend a committee meeting in Plymouth in the morning, so I hitched a ride, Jon picked me up a few hours later, and we headed towards Chicago for his mother’s birthday. We had a few hours to kill, though, so we made a pit stop in Michigan City to enjoy some outlet mall shopping and lunch. My friend Mike told me we had to stop at Sahara. I’m so glad we rode together to Plymouth that morning or I never would have known about this hidden gem.
The day was blustery and snowy, so the warm colors and cozy setting was a welcome reprieve inside Sahara. Several tables lined the walls offering modern chairs on one side and bench seating on the other, full of colorful and comfy pillows. The space is brightly lit by a large garage door near the front of the building. Word on the street is they open it during the summer months to provide an open-air dining experience. We will have to go back for that!
Sahara is a family-owned Lebanese restaurant that has been in business for 7 years. During our visit, we met the owner, Moe, who stopped by to chat with us about the food and our experience. Our waitress was extremely helpful and offered suggestions for our meal. She made us feel right at home. Five stars for service, for sure!
First, I highly recommend the Orange Blossom Lemonade. Because the orange blossom is so fragrant, you first smell it, then taste it, so it feels like the flavor is spreading across your face. I know that sounds crazy- but it’s a very pleasing experience and I couldn’t get enough. The best part? FREE refills. I was savoring mine at first, but our waitress kept coming to fill it up.
So, what did we eat? It was a difficult decision. Sahara offers a Mezza Style Entree for $20 per person, featuring 4 cold and 4 hot Mezzas, served tapas style. If we had had more time, we would’ve gone this route. It’s definitely tempting enough for a return trip soon. Instead, we chose a few dishes to sample and share. You know how we love to share food!
Before our meal arrive, our waitress served a Jerusalem salad and a basket of freshly made pita. The salad, made with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a tahini dressing, was a refreshing way to start our meal. I scooped some onto a pita and enjoyed it that way.
We started with house-made hummus, which our waitress described as “the best in the world.” She may be right. They serve two kinds- original and red pepper. We opted for original and were not disappointed. Flavorful and creamy, the hummus was served with whole chickpeas and paprika, and we ate it on EVERYTHING!
A few bites into the hummus, our waitress emerged with Sahara’s Famous Dates, stuffed with feta and drizzled with pomegranate sauce. I cannot even describe how wonderful these are. I’d consider making the drive just for these. Simple, yet so good. The texture of the gooey date, combined with the savory feta and sweet pomegranate, makes for a flavor-intense treat. Jon kept licking his lips to capture all of the flavor. So, so good… like bite-sized cheesecakes.
Next up, we tried Warak Dawali, hand-rolled grape leaves with beef and spices, served with house-made greek yogurt. YUM! I love Dawali, but I have never had it like this. Usually it’s a tad oily, or at least the ones I’ve had are, but these were light, fresh, tangy, and simply delicious, and hand rolled by the owner’s mother that day. Talk about fresh.
We rounded out our lunch with Lebanese Spinach Pie, listed as a side dish on the menu. It’s a soft pastry filled with spinach, onion, lemon, and sumac. We absolutely loved the prevalent taste of sumac, a deep-red or purple powder that adds an intense lemony flavor. This was a nice complement to our other selections.
At the end of our lunch, our waitress convinced us to try some baklava and she surprised us with a complimentary Moroccan cookie, a pastry stuffed with walnuts and pecans. Both desserts were extremely good. Not too sticky. Not too sweet. Just right!
If you are within 100 miles of Sahara, I recommend going out of your way to try it. I can’t wait to go back! I sure wish they were just down the street. I’d eat there everyday.