Essays & Criticism

Middle East Meets Midwest

•The falafel wrap from Damask Café is one of various vegetarian options on the menu.

The falafel wrap from Damask Café is one of various vegetarian options on the menu.

Born in Syria, Bassam Helwani brought the flavors of the Mediterranean with him to Muncie. Owner of Damask Café, Helwani, introduced distinctive cuisine to the area in February 2013. Helwani’s other restaurant, Café Rumi, which is located in Kansas, has been open since 2002.

“When we first opened, [in Muncie] people didn’t know what hummus was or what falafel was,” Helwani says. After more than a year in business, however, many Muncie residents are being exposed to the new fare.

Syria, Turkey, Greece, India and Pakistan inspire the food. “Mediterranean food,” Helwani says, “is mostly very fresh foods, [that are] not very spicy.” Damask Café offers salads, curries and falafels, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options.

“We try to cater to a wide variety of cuisine and tastes.”

Bassam Helwani also owns Café Rumi, which is named after a famous mystic poet.

Bassam Helwani also owns Café Rumi, which is named after a famous mystic poet.

A popular dish the café offers is sumac chicken, which won Taste of Muncie’s best entrée in 2013.

Helwani says that many Ball State students enjoy Damask Café’s wraps, including pesto chicken, gyro and veggie.

“Probably the most unique thing is our falafel wrap,” Helwani says. This vegetarian dish is filled with falafel, tomatoes, onions, pickles and hummus and then pressed in a panini press and sprinkled with paprika.

Falafel is a Middle Eastern dish made from ground-up chickpeas or fava beans that Damask Café shapes into balls and fries for its wraps.

“You get a good meal [here,]” Helwani says. He said the wraps offer a large portion of food for about $9. The wraps include the choice of a Mediterranean salad or Damask Fries, another menu item that Helwani says sets Damask apart. Damask fries are fresh fries tossed with garlic and cilantro.

Damask Café is open for lunch and dinner every day.

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