This afternoon I sat down for a cup of house blended herbal tea and an incredible variety of food from Baladi Cafe, located at the intersection of Laskin Rd. and First Colonial Rd. Behind CVS pharmacy. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Khaled Jebrail, who started Baladi Cafe seven years ago. Khaled is originally from Palestine, and came to the United States to study engineering. After finishing his degree and pursuing that career path for some time, he came to realize that he wanted to pursue something with a little more heart and soul than the IT world had to offer. From this realization, Baladi came to be.
Baladi has been a part of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local network for about four years now. Every week, Khaled and his two chefs prepare a Buy Fresh Buy Local Special, in which all the ingredients used to prepare the seasonal special are sourced from local farms. On top of being an active Buy Fresh Buy Local member, Baladi is a certified Virginia Green restaurant. They use absolutely no toxic chemicals and practice various other methods of sustainable business management.
However, there is no label, association, or certification that awards or commends Khaled for the quality and care that goes into the dishes they create. Baladi is entirely refined sugar free. They use all organic turbinado or honey for sweeteners. Everything served at Baladi is made in house. The meats are hand trimmed, homemade hummus, housemade hot sauces, as well as freshly prepared bread and desserts. The only thing on the menu that is fried is the falafel, which is fried in pure canola oil. The baklava is made with 70% less butter than traditional baklava and is sweetened with honey. Khaled and his chefs place a very heavy emphasis on nutritional balance. There’s a reason why the food is prepared the way it is, and there is a reason why the food is portioned and presented the way that it is. What the customers are being served is a plate that has been put together with your health, wellness, and taste buds in mind.
The first thing that I got to try was a house blend tea. Something incredibly unique about Baladi is that they import spices and loose leaf tea blends from Palestine. The flavors are phenomenal and Khaled is incredibly passionate about keeping Baladi purposeful. After living in the United States for a few decades, he described to me his struggles about feeling like he was losing his roots. To keep Baladi authentic and to stimulate local economy in both Virginia and back home, Khaled sources from small farms in Virginia and from his family in Palestine. This passionate owner wants his business to be a positive expression of his cultural values, so he found a way to infuse true Palestinian culture and flavor into the food presented at Baladi. The tea blend I sipped on for hours is brought in from Palestine, and it’s called Mama’s Khalta. Translated, khalta literally means “blend”. He told me about his mother and how she used to bring him this blend of loose leaf tea every morning when he was growing up. The tea is a mix of sage, mint, chamomile, anise, fennel, and rose hip. It’s available for purchase to bring home and enjoy, which is something i highly recommend doing.
Baladi serves an incredible variety of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free dishes. Every wednesday is vegan day at Baladi. Every wednesday, there’s complimentary falafel and 50% off bottled vegan wines. They’re also participating in restaurant week, which starts on February 22nd and goes through the 28th.
This incredibly comfortable and cozy dining room offers casual atmosphere with quality food. It's a great little place to stop in for lunch for a wrap in the middle of your work day, but it would also be a phenomenal place for a lovely date night. After tasting a variety from the menu and talking with Khaled, it's so apparent how much care goes into the customer experience. The menu is a creative take on very traditional Mediterranean dishes and cooking methods, making for a truly unique and impressive experience.
The next time you make your way down to Baladi for a bite, the owner recommends trying the mezze platter (which is Jim White Fitness approved), the grouper, tuna steak, or shwaermah platters. My personal recommendation is falafel crusted Virginia tofu and vegan baklava. I can’t articulate what a treat my lunch was because I firmly believe that words would not do it justice.
Take some time to stop in and support the local businesses that choose to support our local farmers. Baladi is open from Monday through saturday, and a copy of the full menu can be found at www.baladicafe.com
A very special thank you to Khaled and his staff for being so lovely and preparing a very stunning lunch for me. I'm incredibly grateful, and can't wait to come back!