Located at 7409 Baltimore Avenue, Kings Park Café offers a nice change of pace from the standard college town eatery fare. While the café does serve college staples such as subs, wings and pizza, it’s the Mediterranean offerings that will keep you coming back.
As soon as you walk in, the vaguely Arabic music and wall decorations let you know that you’re in for a different experience, while the neon signs, big screen TV and standard deli atmosphere let you know that it won’t be too different. The clean and well-maintained 40+-seat Café is a vast improvement over the dingy Penguin Bar & Grille that formerly occupied the location.
The service was very nice and fairly quick – it took 5 minutes to get our appetizer and roughly 10 more to get our meal. Everyone in the restaurant had a smile on their face and was quick to make friendly conversation and suggestions as we ordered. The only down side to the atmosphere was the seating: those who would rather not squeeze into the small tables and chairs should probably get take out or delivery.
Appetizers like grape leaves, hommos and baba ghanouj are a far cry from the standard fried fare you get at most College Park restaurants (Don’t worry if the dish names are unfamiliar; a helpful picture menu above the counter will help you choose). I particularly recommend the falafel, which is served hot and crispy with a tangy sauce that doesn’t overpower the vegetable patties. For big groups or parties, the Kings Park Combination is a great deal: $14.99 for five appetizers of your choice.
For a Mediterranean main course, you can choose from a variety of platters, kabobs (beef lamb, chicken or veggie) and pita bread sandwiches such as gyros. The Shawarma in particular features beef, lamb, or chicken served in a soft, warm shell of pocket bread. The meat is tender and spiced, but not too spicy, and the smooth and flavorful sauce adds to the taste. Platters are served with the standard, heavily seasoned fries and a good selection of fresh vegetables. There’s even a pickle spear to complete the dining hall sandwich line feeling.
From the salads, the tabouleh was fresh and juicy, but featured a little too much parsely for my taste. It was definitely different though, and served in a portion big enough to be a meal on its own. For dessert, the baklava is an exceedingly sweet, flaky pastry that was sticky with honey. It was a little tough to cut with the plastic utensils, but so good that you wouldn’t mind eating it with your hands. For the less adventurous, you can choose from chicken/beef salads or cheese cake for dessert.
Exotic pizza toppings such as shwarma meat, feta cheese, and marinated lamb round out the interesting items on the menu. A complete appetizer, entrée, drink and dessert meal will run you about $13, but coupons and combos can reduce that price.
Across the street from the Café, I noticed a neon sign at Ratsie’s noting that they now serve falafel. If the exotic fare at Kings Park Café catches on, you may see a lot of area restaurants scrambling to offer the same well-priced selection of great Mediterranean food.