Lunch spots in the Loop are a dime a dozen, so finding one that's worth a million bucks is reason to celebrate. And while Taza doesn't quite make my millionaires' club, it's pretty darn high on the list, thanks to its healthy and cheap Mediterranean eats.
Its menu proclaims "Taza means Fresh!," and you'll see little to convince you otherwise. All items are made to order: Chickpea balls are dropped into hot oil at the request of a falafel sandwich; parsley-flecked baba ghanoug boasts plenty of seeds and chunks of eggplant; and a hulking turkey covered in spices is carved for the purpose of loading your sandwich. It's enough to make you overlook the fact that to-go items are packaged in Styrofoam (tsk, tsk) and the interior is heavy on the seating but light on the ambiance.
To be fair, the spot made some effort: the rectangular space is painted a fresh mint, a handful of decorative plates hang from the walls and service is friendly to a fault. It can look a little ragged after the lunch crowd has stampeded through, but that's understandable: The food tastes like it should cost a lot more than it does. Falafel by the piece rings in at .40 cents each, but smart penny-pinchers upgrade to the $5.95 plate: six pieces served with hummus, a garden salad, pita and really, really tasty tahini sauce. You'll also find standards like dolmeh, kifta kabab, gyro sandwiches, chicken shwarma fresh off the rotisserie and a vegetarian plate.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Schwartz