There is no need to travel 3,500 miles to Morocco to enjoy the warmth, colors, and scents of good Mediterranean cuisine. Tangier Café on Main Street in the center of Great Barrington will take you there without the long flight.
The Tangier Café opened in early February and I regret not getting there sooner, but already look forward to returning. It is the second restaurant in Great Barrington co-owned and operated by Angel Espinoza Jimenez and Toni Bergins of the Xicohtencatl Mexican Restaurant on Route 7. But this review is all about the Tangier.
Even before you enter the Café, the window front is colorful and inviting in a rich royal blue and orange with Turkish hanging lights and nicely done arches. As you step inside, the scent of spices and coffees are like a delicious perfume lingering in the air. The walls, painted by Joel Haynes, have clean, beautiful red arches outlined in gold leaf that lead your eyes to more golden arches on the ceiling. Large Moroccan hanging lanterns give the unusually long and narrow space a warm glow. With traditional folk music (rags sharqi) playing it doesn’t take much imagination to visualize a souk (a bazaar) complete with dancers in bedlah clicking their finger cymbals.
You order at the counter, then take a seat at a table against the wall and await the colorful, aromatic delicacies to be presented to you. This is one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve seen. Everything shines and is spotless. My mother would say that’s a sign of a good restaurant because they care about keeping the windows clean.
Though we were only two, I tried to taste as much offered as possible. We ordered the Moroccan mint tea, the Tangier feast, a beef and lamb shawarma, and fresh pressed beet juice.
The Tangier feast is just that — a feast. A large platter of hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli, mousaka, dolmas, warm pita and the best falafel I have ever had! The mousaka made of roasted eggplant, peppers, onions, and garlic was sweet with cinnamon and savory with oregano. The hummus and the baba ganoush were both smooth with just the right amount of lemon. The dolmas are stuffed grape leaves drizzled with a healthy amount of olive oil. I found the rice filling to be a little over done, but the leaves with the oil made up for that tiny flaw. The falafel however, were fantastic! Two orbs, crispy golden brown outside and inside was super moist, and well packed, chick peas with a bevy of spices and herbs, then coved in a light garlicky sauce. I gotta say again: best ever.
I devoured the shawarma sandwich of ground beef and lamb, with tomato, mixed greens, onion and a tahini sauce all wrapped up in lavash. The harissa in the sandwich made my mouth zing. My partner at lunch only shared one healthy bite and that was fine because it meant more for me.
With all these textures and flavors of sweet, spicy, herby, lemony, tangy, the fresh beet juice was a very nice compliment. It also was the most vibrant and gorgeous color. We lingered with the sweet mint tea to finish the meal off. It was just delightful served in a silver pot, on a silver tray and brightly colored little glasses. It was just so nice.
Still wanting to try more I brought home the lamb Tagine with couscous for dinner. Tagine is a stew made of your choice of meats or fish, simmered in a terracotta pot with onions, garlic, tomato, zucchini, carrots, ginger and traditional Moroccan spices. When I opened my take-out boxes it was great looking. A large lamb shank in ample sauce with the couscous in a separate box so it wouldn’t get soggy. All I had to do was heat it up and enjoy. And enjoy I did.
The portion was too big to fit on my everyday dinner plate, so I needed to put it on a charger. It was delicious. The lamb fell off the bone. The rich sauce was full of carrots, peas, potatoes and a marriage of spices that were as fragrant as tasty. No one spice stood out more than another, but blended together for a full-bodied Mediterranean flavor that didn’t over power the taste of the lamb itself. It was better than expected. I ate past the point of full because I couldn’t stop myself it was so good. I definitely recommend it.
Later, I finally had their baklava. It was good, although I thought it was too cinnamony and I like a coarser chopped nut. This by no means deterred me from eating both of them.
The Tangier Café is also open for breakfast. I haven’t tried it yet but heard it was very good and the coffee delicious. What could be wrong with starting your day with a coffee and a “Sleepyhead”? A Sleepyhead is a French toast, Mediterranean style, with cinnamon and honey, and you can add fresh fruit. There are other unique breakfast offerings, all with imaginative names. Don’t forget the fresh squeezed juices; the beet juice was great.
In conclusion, I give the Tangier Café a strong recommendation. Everything from the atmosphere, to the service, to the generous portions, was delightful. I am very much looking forward to going back. Maybe tomorrow?
The Tangier Cafe is located at 284 Main St. in Great Barrington and is open Sunday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can order take-out at 413-645-3375. Go, relax, and enjoy.