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The Grape Leaf Bistro, a fast-casual and takeout restaurant, opened in late August in the space next to Olive Garden. Here’s the owner, Michael Alojeil.

Michael is a native of Lebanon and a longtime restaurateur. He owned the Mill at Puppy Creek, in Raeford, for 13 years; and Michael’s restaurant, across from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, for 24 years.

“I thought there was a niche here for this type of food,” he says. “This is authentic Mediterranean, with some Lebanese accents, all fresh. I like the location, I like the area, and I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time.”

So, we gave it a go. Here’s some photos of our food, and what we thought. It should be noted that everything tasted better than it looks. Some food doesn’t photograph well.

Case in point: The grape leaves. 

They’re in the name, right? So we had to try them. They look totally offensive, but were actually pretty good. If you like collards, you’ll like these. Like collards, we have no hope of convincing our kids to eat them.

Next up: The Tabbouleh. 

This is listed on the menu under “salads,” but it is not. It is exactly what the description says: Parsley with tomatoes and a hint of onions with light lemon dressing. We suggest ordering this if you really, really like parsley.

We also tried: The Chicken Shawarma Sandwich.

This is a Lebanese pita stuffed with chicken shawarma with hummus, mixed greens, pickle and garlic sauce. It says it comes with Lebanese potato salad, which tasted to us like hash browns. The shawarma, however, was very good. We’re still thinking about the sauce (yes, that sounds wrong), and would totally go back just for this meal.

Last, but not least: Lebanese Eggplant.

This is roasted eggplant with garlic, sautéed onions and tomato sauce, served with pita bread. Again, this tasted much better than it looks. And even though it’s 93 degrees outside, we can picture ourselves eating this comfort food in the dead of January.

Want Grape Leaf Bistro’s full menu? You can find it on their bare-bones website.

Have you tried it? Let us know what you think at hello@itsthesway.com.

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