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Thursday, March 13,2014

Experience Mediterranean gigantism at its tastiest

By Josh Gross
Susan France

When thinking of places to eat, it’s unlikely that a deli counter inside a convenience store in the drunk epicenter of University Hill is high on the list.

But there’s a good chance you ought to rethink that in the case of The University Hill Market and Deli, which I discovered — as I imagine many do — by wandering in drunk around midnight.

It’s true that it’s Boulder’s best place to order truly adequate chili cheese fries at the same time as a you pick up a pack of smokes and a two-liter of sugar water.

And that the initial gut-reaction upon entry of it being the sort of place that’s catering to students pursuing marijuana research is pretty accurate. And it’s also true that there’s an obnoxiously loud television blaring at all hours of the day and night that kills whatever ambiance is available in the front window of a convenience store setting.

But what you don’t see coming is just how good some of the food is.

There is a selection of sandwiches and gyros available, as well as some fried delights, such as the aforementioned chili cheese fries, an excellent hangoverbusting drunk snack at $3.49, but far from the best incarnation of the chili cheese fry found by this researcher.

But the real goods at University Hill Market are in the Mediterranean portions of the menu.

Hummus and dolmas and shawarmas, oh my; there’s a reason the kids hit this place after hitting the bong, multiple reasons actually.

The first is that the plates are so ginormous they’re almost like some sort of parody of how Europeans think Americans eat. The shawarma plate ($9.95) I ordered ended up being enough for two meals with generous portions of saffron rice, beef, pita, tabbouli and hummus. The chicken Caesar salad my dining companion went for lasted three. Luckily, it was more chicken than salad, or else it would have been a sad leftover by meal three. That’s great for the munchie set, but it’s also some serious value to get a twofer like that, and an excellent opportunity to make a new shawarma-buddy.

But gigantism of the portions wouldn’t matter much if it’s a Texas-sized pile of meh.

That brings us to fact number two of the case: it’s good.

The schwarma was tender and well-spiced, delivered fresh and steaming. The tabouli was thick with lemon juice and olive oil, a fresh and lightly bitter taste that balanced the richness of the beef. The hummus was some of the best I’ve had in a long time. I’ve had a lot of Mediterranean food, everywhere from the Middle East to the mall food court, and while University Hill Market wasn’t the best — that honor goes to a hole in the wall shawarmatarium in downtown Vancouver, B.C. — the shawarma plate is in my top 10 Mediterranean to-go meals.

If the meal had a failing, it was the pita, which was sliced up and store bought, probably from an aisle over. But considering not only the limitations of a convenience store deli counter and that precious few sit-downs make their pita fresh to order, it’s forgivable.

Maybe you’re drunk as a cartoon black cat with a white stripe of paint on its back so it looks like a skunk right now. Maybe you’re just about to break from the office for lunch. Maybe you just like using the word shawarma whenever possible. Whatever the case may be, give it a shot. Just get it to go. The TV is REALLY loud.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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