Homemade Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare is just what Collegetown needs, and Loumies exceeded all expectations. Inspired by the flavors of the Middle East, Persia and North Africa, Loumies has created a delicious blend of flavorful dishes for Ithaca’s students and residents. They offer tasty dishes like kufta meatballs, okra stew and labneh sandwiches with flavorful sides of hummus, seven spice rice and more.
Loumies is a family business. There I had the opportunity to speak to chef Rania Chidiac Kaldi and her husband Raed. Previously Director of Corporate Communications for Western Union in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, Kaldi left the corporate environment to share her love of cooking.
The pair describe their food as Levantine, or from the Levant region, with a mix of other North African and Middle Eastern influences. Rania draws on her own background in Lebanese cuisine, but adds many new flavors and dietary accommodations to the menu, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
I tried five different dishes: za’atar, meat and cheese pies, Lebanese okra stew, kufta meatballs and Moroccan vegetable tagine. Each of the plates was served on a bed of warm, fresh rice, and I couldn’t help but praise the wonderful aroma every few seconds as I carried the bag of food back to my apartment.
The pies were doughy, chewy, and totally satisfying: the perfect quick bite on your way through Collegetown. While the za’atar and cheese pies were large buns with spices and cheese on them, respectively, the meat pie was a ball filled with delicious ground beef flavored with cinnamon, allspice and more. The okra stew was fresh and seasoned to perfection with blends of onion and cilantro. The vegetable tagine was warm and comforting; The lovely aroma of cinnamon and other spices complemented the variety of pumpkins, parsnips, carrots, chickpeas and dried apricots.
The kufta was a hit among my friends and I. When I was growing up, kufta (or kofta) was one of my favorite dishes. It’s a delicious mix of meat, spices, onions and other ingredients prepared in the shape and style of the chef. These kufta were in the form of meatballs and Loumies served them with a delicious, flavorful tomato sauce.
Although I didn’t get a chance to do so last time, I look forward to trying the restaurant’s Seven Spice chicken and Armenian-inspired flatbread next time.
Kaldi and her husband expressed how excited they are to provide home-cooked meals for Ithaca students and residents. Their restaurant is cozy and welcoming, with an open space and a few places to sit down and chat.
Collegetown has lacked a place to enjoy home-cooked Middle Eastern and North African food, so I cannot express how excited I am to find this restaurant. I recommend it to everyone I know. For those who have never tried this type of cuisine, Loumies will offer you an incredible experience for your first taste! Next time I will come back to try the kufta sandwich, farmer’s salad and ash soup.
I would absolutely recommend the dishes I tried and I encourage anyone who is curious to check it out. Kaldi expressed her pride in her cooking skills and it is well deserved. Whether you’re stopping there for an iced coffee or a za’atar cake, Loumies truly has something for everyone and I’m excited to welcome you to Collegetown.
Natasha Aysseh is a Junior in Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]