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1011 Avenida Pico, San Clemente
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. every day
By Daniel Ritz
Walking into Café Mint in San Clemente, curious but relatively unfamiliar with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, new owner Ed Abdallah greeted us and asked, “Well, what do you like?”
That answer is often chicken, and Abdallah steers customers to Café Mint’s chicken kabob plate, which is a best-seller off his menu and one he considers to be his most “defining” dish.
The dish is comprised of a hearty portion of tender, lightly-spiced and kosher-rated chicken sitting on a bed of seasoned Mediterranean rice. A Lebanese salad divides the plate, adding a light, refreshing balsamic relief from the chicken’s robust flavor and is accentuated by a homemade garlic sauce. Rounding out the meal is homemade hummus concocted onsite.
“No canned stuff here. We spice (the hummus), we soak it, we grind it and we boil it every single morning,” Abdallah said.
Authenticity is the name of the game for Abdallah. With only a few local options for high-quality Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, he looks forward to introducing what he considers a special cuisine to San Clemente through a relaxing, family-friendly, neighborhood-restaurant feel. Café Mint features dishes from various countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Turkey and Greece.
Serge Jonnaert, a resident of San Clemente, said he is and regular patron of Café Mint.
“My wife is Lebanese, and I eat Middle Eastern food all the time,” Jonnaert said. “This is simply the best around. It’s real. She would know, which is why we keep coming back.”
In addition to recently added outdoor seating, Cafe Mint offers pickup as well as catering options.
Also, Café Mint is currently researching an “off-the-menu Wednesday special,” where one new international meal will be featured weekly. Details are to be determined, but Abdullah suggests that patrons visit Café Mint to take part in the testing.