No credit cards accepted. Ties and jackets not required. Open 11:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily. Street parking available.
Getting children to try new foods, as every mother knows, is a tricky business. Give them something that isn't instantly recognizable and they react with a steely skepticism that makes doubting Thomas look like a pushover.
Nevertheless, our family, which includes two daughters, ages seven and 10, recently decided to try something new and different and found ourselves at Mama Ayesha's (also known as the Calvert Cafe), a Middle Eastern restaurant near the Calvert Street Bridge on the fringes of the Adams-Morgan area in Washington. Although there was not a pizza or hamburger in the place, we all came away two hours later well-fed at reasonable prices and promising to return soon to this friendly spot.
The front door of Mama Ayesha's opens into
All the entrees are served with rice and salad or yogurt. The girls ordered the most expensive dinners - lamb shish kebabs at $3.95. (If you have offspring with smaller appetites, dinner-splitting is permitted.) The kebabs were marinated and cooked over charcoal, and to the delight of the children were short on tomatoes and onions and long on the very tasty lamb chunks. Our seven-year-old claimed she especially liked the rice, polishing it off with what must have been her fourth piece of Syrian bread.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] a plain room with a bar and booths in it. The host, a nephew of Mama's, greeted us immediately and led us into the dinning room to the right where the tables were carefully set with linen table cloths and napkins. The paneled walls are simply decorated with an Oriental rug and Middle Eastern prints, and taped American or Arabian music plays at reasonable decibel levels.Nearly all the tables were filled with familes, students, young and middle-aged couples.
Most of the appetizers, which range in price from 75 cents to $1.50, were a bit exotic for children's tables, but we did order a plate of excellent hummus (mashed chickpeas and sesame dressing flavored with garlic, parsley and lemon) served with warm, very fresh flat Syrian bread. Our younger child declined the hummus but made a sizable dent in the bread basket.
My husband, normally a meat and potatoes man, enjoyed the couscous, a popular and traditional dish consisting of braised lamb, chickpeas, carrots and crushed wheat - all nicely seasoned. At $3.00, a steal.
A third adult in our party tried on eggplant dish called manzaleh which was particularly good. It cost $3.25. I had kibbeh ($3.00), a sort of Middle Eastern meat loaf made with ground lamb, onions, crushed wheat, pine nuts and onions. It tasted fine but was a bit dry.
Most of the food is suited to American palates but for those who prefer something very simple, a dinner of three broiled lamb chops ($3.95) or a marinated, broiled half chicken ($3.00) are also available.
Three desserts are offered: bakalava (rated high by the children), a cheese-filled pastry and a pastry made with pistachios. They are 50 to 60 cents.
The adults each had a mixed drink ($1.50) before dinner, the children had soft drinks (50 cents). If you order Turkish coffee (50 cents), Mama Ayesha might be willing to read your fortune from the residue left in the cup if she's not too busy in the kitchen.
The service is efficient and gracious - we had three people waiting on us - and our daughters felt very much at home.
The total bill, including drinks, desserts, ect. for our family of four came to $26.15 The tip was $