Myrna’s Mediterranean Bistro
Website: Myrna’s Mediterranean Bistro
Menu: View Online
Considering the past few years’ trendy influences of Mediterranean diet books, Grecian sandals, Greek yogurt, and even the perks of having celebrity Greek heir boyfriends, it’s no wonder business at Myrna’s Mediterranean Bistro is blossoming. Though it originated as a hole-in-the-wall place only experienced falafel eaters ventured far enough away from downtown Stamford to enjoy, the secret is out. Now diverse groups of diners flock to Myrna’s to get their ethnic fix at a decent price of which the gods of justice would certainly approve.
Myrna’s offers a vast menu of all the basic Mediterranean staples from hummus (chickpea dip) to falafel sandwiches in hot pita bread (fried chickpea and fava bean balls, which are much more appetizing than they sound) to chicken or lamb kebabs. While the experienced Lebanese chef may not necessarily serve up new and innovative dishes, he does however excel at all of these classics, drawing in regular patrons from the local area and as far as White Plains, New York. Myrna Yannieh, who started the restaurant in 2003, was recently recognized by the Stamford Chamber of Commerce as the winner of the “Best Tasting” eatery award among forty competitors. She has truly dedicated herself to creating a memorable, inviting experience for both her loyal and new customers by serving up authentic food based on her grandmother’s recipes.
Although she is the restaurant owner, the ever-so-friendly Myrna is happy to play the role of waitress along with her cousin-co-owner, Pierre, chatting it up with diners and dishing out samples on-the-house regularly. Her mission in establishing the restaurant was not to make money – “there are easy ways to do business like that.” Instead, she said she hopes to “develop real relationships with customers and expose people to true Lebanese food, not the kind other restaurants pass off as authentic and healthy.” This brings up the point that one of the restaurant’s admirable promises is to offer fresh food made on the spot, that won’t scare away calorie conscious eaters. Despite the Mediterranean diet craze, Myrna revealed a fact many followers might be in denial about: frequently falafels and kebabs advertised as “healthy” are loaded with oils and overly fried to hide the flavor of aging food. This is not the case at Myrna’s, and if you don’t believe it, just take a look for yourself at the visible kitchen and watch your fresh tomatoes being sliced before your very eyes.
Part of the appeal of Myrna’s is that while it draws in Mediterranean natives and regular eaters, it also is a welcoming starting point for newbies who want to try ethnic cuisine without setting their mouths on fire with Indian spices.
At $19.75, the house special mezza platter is an ideal way to share with another person and sample a variety of appetizers, which also makes for a great meal. It includes hummus, baba ghannouj, taboule, falafel, spinach pie, meat pie and kibbe. The fresh and lemony hummus with homemade oven-warm pita bread is a great starter, though for the experienced eater it may seem bland. Adding their special jalapeño sauce easily solves this problem. The baba ghannouj (a dip made of roasted eggplant with tahini sauce and lemon) is outstanding and not too strongly seasoned. Myrna’s taboule (a salad of parsley, tomatoes, scallions and bulgar wheat) is a tasty way to cool your mouth and cleanse your palate, giving you that fresh, sharp parsley hint. The falafels are hearty and not at all greasy, and go well with hummus since they are not very flavored. Myrna’s falafel sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, tahini sauce and a hot pink mystery vegetable, later identified as a surprisingly delicious pickled turnip, make for a filling, but nutritious, protein and veggie-packed lunch or dinner. The spinach and meat pies are boring and too doughy, but this can come in handy for the new, timid eater. Finally the kibbe (lean ground beef with bulgar wheat and spices) will certainly satisfy meat-lovers, as will the grilled chicken and lamb kebabs. Neither the stuffed grape leaves appetizer nor the cous cous side dish were very exciting, but the simple authentic salad with mint, lemon and olive oil, the Caesar salad, the lentil soup, and the aromatic not-your-mother’s-average-chicken-noodle-soup all make excellent starters or meals.
One of Myrna’s best surprises is its homemade, thin crust pizza, which includes toppings like mozzarella, rosemary, sun-dried tomato, mushrooms, olives and garlic. Some customers have retired their Dominos habits, and routinely order Myrna’s more gourmet pizza for delivery for $12.75 (the margherita) to $23.75 (but that pizza includes filet mignon with Béarnaise sauce if you feel like stepping it up a notch).
If you have room for dessert, the showcased baklava with a choice of pistachio, cashew, pine nut or walnut with honey and flaky philo dough is divine especially with its $3.50 price tag. Myrna’s offers a wine selection by the glass or bottle as well as beer. Although the lack of a bar may be a drawback for some, Myrna has confirmed that the restaurant will be expanding next door this summer and will feature a bar in her efforts to create a scene for not only families, but for also adults who want to have a good time without the obnoxious hipper scenes of other Stamford hangouts that cater to a younger crowd. Thus, Myrna is returning to her original message: it’s all about eating great food with great company within a friendly, fun atmosphere. And with such reasonable prices for the quality of taste, you don’t even need a Greek heir to fork the bill.
Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 9:30 pm; Closed on Sunday
866 East Main Street