Nestled in a familiar line of storefronts is one of South Limestone’s newest eateries: Taza Mediterranean Grill.
The grill occupies the space that once housed Limestone Pizza and serves a variety of authentic Mediterranean dishes.
Though the restaurant faces challenges in the form of competition with UK dining, owner Muhammed Masadeh has been “happy with the revenue side” of his business since he opened the establishment two months ago.
Taza has been rated one of the 10 best Mediterranean restaurants in Lexington by Yelp, and according to Masadeh, there have been no problems with attracting customers to the new location due to specific qualities that give Taza a leg up over the competition.
“The quality, the quantity and the diversity of the food makes [Taza] unique, and the atmosphere of the dining area is also different,” Masadeh said. “Everyone who’s coming here is happy, and they promise to visit us again and again. Everybody thanks us about the quality of the food.”
The restaurant functions like a Mediterranean Subway. Customers first choose between a wrap, a rice platter or a salad before adding protein, such as lamb kebab or falafel. Condiments include tahini, a traditional Middle Eastern sauce made from sesame seeds and garlic, and shata, a type of hot sauce. Prices range from $5.99 to $7.99.
Thanks to the store’s convenient location directly across from the Gatton College of Business, it has already had its fair share of student visitors. Though anyone can enjoy the food, some, like junior Zahara Sadiq, have found an unexpected taste of home at Taza.
“I’m from Iraq, and [Taza’s] food is pretty similar — falafel, shawarma, rice with garlic sauce, hummus,” Sadiq said. “It’s like you’re eating a home-cooked meal.”
Food is not the only factor contributing to Taza’s success. Sophomore Marcela Quintero, who found Taza while looking for a comfortable place to study, commented that she was drawn to the restaurant’s atmosphere.
“On campus, I don’t really like to study in the big buildings because there’s always something happening,” Quintero said, surrounded by notebooks. “Here, I can just eat and sit down and write my paper.”
Masadeh has also acquired the storefront adjacent to Taza – a space that formerly housed health food restaurant NiceNPan – with the intention of turning it into a Mediterranean café. The café is projected to open in two to three weeks and will serve breakfast and dessert, including baklava and Turkish bagels.
According to Masadeh, since his main customers are UK students, he would like to serve them by keeping the café’s prices at or below Taza’s prices.
But Taza’s opening has not been without challenges.
“Everything is in Arabic,” Masadeh said. “Right now, customers are struggling [to pronounce] the names of my food.”
Taza Mediterranean Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.