When Samson's Gourmet Hot Dogs closed last year, many Oak Lawn residents mourned the loss of a favorite neighborhood hangout, but its replacement might be even better.
Open Sesame Lebanese Grill opened this weekend without much publicity or heavy marketing. They want to ease into things, rather than facing big crowds right away. But the crowds might find this small place soon.
Open Sesame has a handful of tables inside and a dog-friendly patio that' nearly as big as its interior seating. Aside from the main front door, the front walls are all sliding glass, which were fully open on a beautiful Monday night so the whole restaurant could enjoy the weather.
The menu is simple but satisfying. There's a short list of beers and wines, including three each of red and white wines from Lebanon, ranging from a $7 glass to a $49 bottle. The single-page food menu includes favorites like hummus, tabbouleh, shawarma, kebabs and wrap-style sandwiches. Vegetarians will find plenty to eat here, including falafel, the all-veggie appetizer sampler and a cup of lentil soup.
I opted for a glass of Almaza, a smooth and inoffensive Lebanese light beer that grew on me as the evening went on ($5), and a lamb kebab platter ($14). That platter comes with diner's choice of two sides; mine were baba ghanoush, the pureed eggplant dip and tabbouleh. Open Sesame's tabbouleh is simply terrific, a sharply flavorful mix of good fresh parsley, mostly, with some diced tomatoes and bulgur wheat. The baba ghanoush is milder and creamier than I'm used to, a little sweet rather than smoky, but not bad.
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That lamb kebab, though, was legit. Straight off the skewer (the morsels still have holes in them), my lamb meat was well-grilled, tender, juicy and rubbed with a simple pepper spice mix. It comes with a bonus skewer of grilled vegetables, charred for extra flavor, including tomatoes, bell peppers and (skin-on) red onions.
That $14 platter was too big to finish in one meal, so I grabbed a to-go box. There are plenty of reasons to go back, too: I want to try their falafel, which is available as a starter, main course plate or sandwich; the delicious-looking chicken shawarma; and a sampling of the short list of traditional Lebanese desserts.
Open Sesame is spending its first week serving dinner only, but they plan to roll out lunch service soon. Stay tuned for what appears to be one of the best new hangout spots in Oak Lawn.
Open Sesame Lebanese Grill, 2615 Oak Lawn Ave, 469-726-2825. Currently Mon-Sun 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., but hours may expand soon.