LaGrange has been lacking in Mediterranean cuisine for quite some time. When The Halal Guys opened, I thought that maybe that hole would be filled. However, the fast food nature of their restaurant and the corresponding lower quality was disappointing. 7 Gates Restaurant, on the other hand, surpassed my expectations and fulfilled the much-needed role of quality Mediterranean food in LaGrange.
Due to COVID-19, my family and I decided to take advantage of the outdoor seating available. The arrangement was optimal considering the restaurant’s location next to a busy street like 55th: low wooden walls surrounded the tables, and the thick vines that hung above them created both a beautiful ambiance and a shield between us and the traffic. The vines combined with the string lights hanging above made us feel like we were having dinner in a garden.The traditional Arabian music also added to this calm atmosphere.
My family started the evening with two appetizers: the small potato with garlic and cilantro ($6) and the appetizer size yalanji ($4). When we received the potato dish, I went in expecting spiciness because of the red sauce that covered the potatoes. Instead, I was met with a strong, almost overpowering lemon flavor. I am not a big fan of spicy foods, but I found myself wanting that spicy kick to help balance the lemon flavor. However, I would say the softness of the potatoes won the dish some points for texture.
The second appetizer came with four yalanji (grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables). The flavor was very similar to Greek dolmades—spices infused with the rice and vegetable combination—but with an added tartness and sweetness that I appreciated. For a family of four, I would recommend ordering the large, which comes with eight yalanji, because I was not satisfied with just one. Since they are served cold, they would also make great leftovers.
For my main course, I ordered the falafel wrap in saj ($9) with a side of bulgur ($3.25). The saj bread is described as a thin kind of flatbread. The thin quality ensured that the falafel took center stage and wasn’t overpowered by bread, like it may have been had I chosen pita bread. The wrap had toasted marks along the flatbread, as if it had been grilled or pressed, which gave a subtle crunch that complemented the chewiness of the falafel very well. Inside the wrap, tomato and Mediterranean pickles added a fresh flavor, and the warm spices of the falafel made me want to dub this a comfort food. A creamy and slightly tangy homemade hummus blended all of the flavors of the wrap together. I also decided to dip my wrap in a garlic yogurt sauce that the waiter brought out, which I would definitely recommend. The sauce added a lightness that offset the otherwise heavy dish and gave a subtle garlic tang with each bite.
The wrap was filling, and it could probably be a sufficient meal on its own. However, I was glad to have the side of bulgur for some variety. Bulgur is cracked wheat with a texture similar to cous-cous or quinoa. It was very chewy, and the spices gave it a flavor akin to Mexican rice. While I enjoyed this side, I preferred my mother’s side of Mediterranean rice, which was flavored with warm spices like nutmeg.
Throughout the night, our waiter was very attentive and friendly; he offered suggestions about the menu and even looked up the name of the song playing when we asked about the music.
While I was not a fan of our potato appetizer, the delicious falafel main course, calm ambiance and gracious service won me over. I would recommend 7 Gates for practically any occasion; because of their diverse menu, you can choose your own path. Casual night with friends? Get some wraps or sandwiches through the drive-through. Fancier dinner with family? Sit down and add some appetizers to the meal. Overall, the prices were fair considering the amount and quality.
7 Gates Restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It is located at 10050 55th Street, Countryside. Outdoor and indoor seating are available, as well as takeout and a more limited drive-through menu.
7 Gates Restaurant: 4.5/5 paws