First Look: Meze Grill Really is the Middle Eastern Chipotle


When yesterday’s post about the newly opened Meze Grill (on 8th btw. 55+56th) described it as a “Middle Eastern Chipotle” some commenters were quick to point that most authentic falafel and shawarma stands (here and abroad) operate in much the same way a Chipotle does.  That is, “you pick Pita or Laffa, choose protein, and pick out of an array of salads and sauces. This is a formula that has existed since the days of wandering in the desert. If anything, Chipotle is a Mexican Meze Grill.”

Right.  Except for one thing.  Meze Grill goes a little beyond just the “pick your fillings” on a buffet line formula.  The metaphor extends not just to the way the place operates, and looks… but also to its core essence.  I checked Meze Grill out yesterday, and I think once you do too, you’ll come to the same conclusion:  Meze Grill is the Middle Eastern Chipotle.

Yes, at Kosher Deluxe, Pick a Pita, Bread & Olive and Olympic Pita you pick out your bread, your protein, your salads and sauces… but do any of those places look like this?


And notice the menu above the counter.  Organized to look (and feel) exactly like a Chipotle.  Its also meant to operate like a Chipotle.  In the back, you can see two delicious spits full of meat rotating away (one chicken, and one steak).  But this place is meant operate like a fast food joint, so the meat is pre-cut and put into the steam tables at the front (just like Chipotle.)


The menu gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Here’s what we tried:

Rice bowl with lettuce, tomato, onions and spicy hummus

Chicken Shawarma in White Bread Pita w/ Hummus

Falafel in Wheat Bread Pita w/ Babaganoush & Pickled Turnips

But how did it taste?  Well, I don’t think it’s right to say bad things about a place the first week it’s open.  Especially because they are, by their own admission, still working out the kinks.  In fact the chef, who has experience working in another modern Middle Eastern chain restaurant, came around to all the tables asking for feedback- and genuinely seemed like he was asking so that he could make improvements (not just receive meaningless praise.)

But I will say this, Meze Grill is 100% the Middle Eastern Chipotle. And no matter what improvements they make to the taste, or the price, that is not going to change one bit.  From the way they serve the meat to the way they’ve converted standard Mediterranean sauces into dressings with names like “hummus lime” or “whipped feta” .  If you love Chipotle (as a concept, and lunch option) you will probably find things to like about Meze Grill.  If Chipotle leaves you with an angry longing for real and authentically tasty Mexican food- Meze Grill will most certainly have the same effect.

The only difference I can see is that Midtown is home to some of the best falafel and shawarma joints you’ll find in the states. Which leaves me to wonder why Meze Grill’s owners chose New York as the place to plant their first flag.  There are plenty of other cities who would be far more excited to have a place like this (“where authentic Mediterranean food meets modern flavor”.)  Even LA might have been a better first stop…

On the other hand, we are a pretty picky bunch- and there is no question this franchise has larger aspirations than a single store on 8th Ave.  I guess if they are looking to use this first location as the place to get feedback and hone their concept (and food), you’re not going to find a group more willing to offer their “constructive criticism” than Midtown Lunchers!

So the question is, do you want to be their guinea pig?

Meze Grill, 934 8th Ave. (btw. 55+56th), 212-969-9782


  • so you’ve experienced its ‘core essence’ have you?

    oh he gots to be hittin that y’all. word.

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    Well said Zach. The whole experience left me with a cheap, tawdry, empty feeling – like I’d been cheating on someone.
    Hey now with Szech. Goumet around the corner and numerous great street carts in the area,I’ll stick to those and walk the 10 or so blocks if I feel the urge for some authentic down n dirty shawarma.

  • I didn’t even try meze. I walked out. It seemed underwhelming. Perhaps if they add some other meats it would look interesting. It seemed a bit pricey for what you would get. I work closer to Dervish, Akdeniz, and Kosher Deluxe (and I keep passing this guy wearing a Taam Tov sign that intrigues me). Maybe next week I’ll do each in succession then give Meze a try.

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    “Crunch patties!”

    “And ta-hi-ni?”

    “Flavor sauce!”

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    @adam –

    I love Taam Tov. I don’t go often, but it is truly authentic Bukharian food. I’d suggest starting w/ some bread and this avocado/guacamole-ish side that they have. Then just order 2 kebabs over rice. They’ll let you split the meats, even though the kebabs on the menu are listed as “2 chicken, 2 beef, 2 lamb, etc…” For me it’s usually 1 lamb and 1 chicken. It’s a really cool and really tasty dining experience and you can do it right for around $20.

    As for this Meze Grill – I’ll try it simply because they are covering my favorite food category, but I don’t like what I see from this post at all. I like middle eastern places precisely because they don’t look like mexican chain restaurants. Plus, why would I buy from a place that uses steam tables when I can eat something fresh? The original conception of a middle-eastern joint is far superior to this in every way.

    They are literally reinventing the wheel by deflating the air from the tires.

  • Thanks Nola. I’ll give them a shot. Their ad says they have shawarma. Is it just chicken or do they have lamb shawarma as well?

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    They do have shawarma – just chicken, though, as far as I know. I’ve never tried the shawarma there, so please give a heads up to the ML community if it warrants a taste.

  • Admittedly a new shop, up-start, with aspirations to become a chain can still work (look how many of us were pleasantly surprised with Crisp)… but i think some originality is the key factor. yes, in the first week they are probably looking to fine tune the basics, but i think they need to get creative with the food offerings if they want to stand out and thrive.

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    The thing I like about Chipotle is that you can pick what you want into your sandwich – I personally make a healthy burrito (no cheese or sour cream), you can do the same here plus its a lot of good food for the price.

  • unfortunately this place is CLOSED

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