Sides are offered in three sizes, which is especially nice for those of us who want to try something new but are afraid of overcommitment. Urban Deli offers regular deli salads, such as potato and pasta, and other ethnic favorites such as baba ganoush (a kind of eggplant dip), tabouli (bulgar (cracked wheat), parsley and tomato), orzo pesto, Thai noodle, chicken curry, eggplant, corn and tzatziki. If sides are your thing, you can create a nearly infinite number of combinations plates across Urban Deli’s sides and main plates. And on any given day, there are close to half a dozen hummus choices available, from spicy to Greek to beet to Mexican flavored.
Salads and Soups
Urban Deli offers several salads, including a Chinese chicken salad, a Greek salad, a chicken shawarma salad, a Mexican salad and a falafel salad. With the weather still being warm, they currently only offer a veggie and a Moroccan lentil soup, but both were excellent, so we look forward to trying their expanded fall and winter soup menu.
Gyros, shawarmas, kaftas and kabobs, oh my!
If you are like me and did not grow up with a lot of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, a brief explanation of the different dishes may be helpful. That said, all of them are delicious in their own right, so we use our newfound knowledge simply as a reference, but usually choose from the menu in a relative random manner, wanting to rotate through all Urban Deli’s great flavors.
The short version is that the Turks started a tradition of cooking meat on vertical spits and the practice spread throughout the former Ottoman Empire. Theirs is called “doner,” while the Greek’s is the “gyro” (pronounced “Yee-row” – the “G” is silent) and in the Middle East it is called “shawarma.” Each word roughly translates to “turn” or “turning,” which is the way they are all traditionally cooked. The main differences come by way of what type of meat and which spices are used. That said, you will find all sorts of non-traditional variants here in the U.S.. In fact, most U.S. gyros are served with French fries inside the wrap, but because I do not like soggy fries, and prefer the delicious taste of the seasoned meat, am happy to report that Urban Deli does not adulterate theirs with fries.
And just to round things out on Urban Deli’s menu, “kafta” is ground meat family of dishes (theirs is mixed with onions, parsley and special spices) and kabobs are small cuts of grilled meat that most of us know from the shish kabobs we often cook on our backyard grills.
Although I encourage the kids in our extended family to try the great ethnic dishes on the menu, if yours are finicky, the kids menu has chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, hot dogs, pasta, chicken quesadilla and chicken tacos.
On his only day off, Sam creates almost all of the restaurant’s desserts, which like the menu, are a diverse and beautiful offering, depending on what is left when you get there. We have had several excellent baklava, a Mexican turnover of sorts, cookies, pastries, knafeh (cheese wrapped in shredded and colorful phyllo dough and some really tasty mini pies, so far including a cherry and a pecan pie. It has gotten to the point where the first thing we check when entering the restaurant is the dessert case, so we can see what new and fresh desserts Sam has baked up. Although I have a huge sweet tooth, I have been thoroughly enjoying Sam’s desserts, which lean more towards the savory than sweet side and make for a perfect conclusion to his meals, many of which have the natural sweetness one often finds with well-seasoned meat and some of the Mediterranean sides.
Urban Deli is still feeling their roots and promises updates are in the works. The restaurant plans to add a cooler by the door for ready-to-eat to-go meals and if Petaluma wants it, will expand its dinner menu and hours. Currently they are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
“You will have to come try Marla’s tamales once we add them back to the menu,” says Sam. “Where she comes from, they are made with flour instead of corn and are amazing!” Along with adjusting the menu for the seasons, bringing on more soups as the weather cools, Sam and Marla plan to bring on more of Marla’s authentic Mexican dishes now that she can spend more time in the restaurant.
“Customers loved her green pozole, so we will be bringing that back too,” he said.
With such deep culinary roots from both their homelands, plus all they have learned working in restaurant here in the U.S., Sam and Marla also offer a wide array of catering options, from Middle Eastern to Mexican to good ol’ American cuisine. Theirs is another great option as the holidays approach and many of us start to scrabble for interesting ways to liven up both our home and work party menus.
One of the things I was most impressed with when I finally got a chance to meet and speak with Marla and Sam is their openness to feedback. It is well known within the Petaluma dining scene that a restaurant will have a hard time surviving if they do not listen to Petalumans. Although I am simply a food writer (and eater), with minimal insight into what makes or breaks a restaurant, the Qudsieh’s were genuinely interested in our feedback and wanted to know what they could do to be more involved in the community. Although their food is excellent, it is this receptive and inclusive attitude that will likely be what pushes things over the top for them and hopefully has them successfully participating in Petaluma’s restaurant scene for decades to come.