It’s not easy to find Holy Land Cafe. The restaurant is tucked behind a Taco Bell, next to a cell phone store in a Lenexa strip mall.
Since opening nearly 14 years ago, Holy Land Cafe has quietly attracted a dedicated following with its fresh, affordably priced Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food.
On the menu: silky-smooth hummus indented with pools of olive oil and hot sauce; charred, tender meats grilled on a spit and served over rice with warm pita bread; fried falafel that’s crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside; and flaky baklava layered with chopped nuts and sticky with honey.
Owners Khaled Chehady and Salah Harzi insist on keeping prices low and making almost everything from scratch. The pita bread is one of the few things not made in-house.
At lunch, most entrees cost less than $7. The beef shawarma ($6.49) consists of perfectly seasoned slices of meat served over rice with garlicky mayo, grilled vegetables, hummus and warm pita. A lightly dressed Greek salad comes on the side. For less than $6, you can get a gyro or falafel sandwich with fries or a Greek salad and a drink.
Workers from nearby businesses pack Holy Land Cafe at lunch and rush hour, when commuters stop in for carryout on their way to Interstate 35.
“Get the Chicken With Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Sauce,” insisted a regular waiting for her dinner on a rainy weeknight last week. “You’ll love it.”
That popular entree, which costs $9.95 at dinner or $6.49 at lunch, is made with generous hunks of chicken breast and slightly sweet sun-dried tomatoes. It’s served over rice with grilled vegetables, pita, and your choice of Greek salad or pureed lentil soup, made with carrots and onions and fragrant spices. It’s enough food for two meals: dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.
Looking for something spicier? Try the chicken or lamb biryani ($9.95) cooked with fragrant curry and served with cooling cucumber sauce.
Holy Land Cafe also serves several kinds of shish kebabs, a few seafood dishes and family-sized Holy Feasts. The four-person feast costs $49.95 and comes with hummus, baba ganoush (a slightly smoky mashed eggplant dip) several kinds of kebabs, shawarma, rice, vegetables and more.
If you prefer to dine in, there are several distinct dining rooms and seating options (couches, booths, tables) to choose from. The decor isn’t fancy and the servers are reserved, yet polite and efficient. Here, it’s all about the consistently delicious food. So once you find this Holy Land, it’s hard not to go back.