Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism
FAYETTEVILLE — Dining in Fayetteville only occasionally as we do, we'd never thought about it lacking a Middle Eastern restaurant until we learned that it doesn't. Which is to say, we'd planned to eat at a certain downtown Fayetteville restaurant we'd heard of, and found when we got there that the place had shut down permanently. We looked in at another restaurant nearby, but there'd be a long wait for a table, and we weren't in the mood. Then we spotted Emelia's Kitchen, “Mediterranean Food & Bar,” and we said, why not?
It's not that anybody's been keeping a secret. Emelia's sits on Dickson Street — from our table next to the window we could see Old Main — and is nearly four years old, according to one of the owners, Sara Ouyoumjian. Emelia isn't here. The restaurant was named for the mother of Sara's husband, George. Emelia provided many of the recipes for the restaurant, Sara says, but adds that the dishes have “been around for thousands of years.” George was born and raised in Syria, but he's of Armenian descent. He came to the United States at 19.
Emelia's is a relaxed, friendly sort of place and our waitress was knowledgeable about the menu, too, helping us separate one eggplant dish from another. Speaking of eggplant, we loved the grilled vegetables — eggplant, onions, tomatoes and red bell peppers, on a bed of rice pilaf with pita bread — but not enough to eat the whole thing. It was a large serving.
Sauteed tilapia was a special of the day, and a companion spoke highly of it. The best thing we had, probably, was the lamb meatballs for an appetizer, although the baklava wasn't bad either. It's made on the premises, like most of Emelia's desserts. There's a full bar, including some nice imported beers.
As we said, there's a lot of eggplant here, and a lot of kebabs — lulu (chicken), shish, steak, lamb and pork — and we like that sort of thing. Still, Emelia's has its biggest crowds at its Saturday-and-Sunday brunch, when the menu isn't especially Mediterranean: lots of kinds of omelets; lots of kinds of Eggs Benedict, including steak; lots of kinds of pancakes. “Brunch is probably what we're best known for,” Sara said. “There aren't that many good places open for brunch.”
Not the least of Emelia's charms for us was that front window. From it, we could see not only Old Main but gangs of university students milling around on Dickson. A group came by carrying a banner protesting conditions in Darfur. One or two of them seemed rather festive, considering the gravity of their topic, but after all, it's a college town and it's Friday night.
309 W. Dickson St.
There aren't a lot of Middle Eastern places in Fayetteville, so if you're craving gyros and tabouleh …
Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except on Monday when there is none), dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, brunch 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Full bar. Credit cards accepted.