Great Armenian fare can be found at Qzeen, a small deli and cafe tucked inside Medford's Cobblestone Village.
Look for fresh tabbouleh, hummus, dolma, falafel, shirazi and other traditional dishes, along with a deli case offering mortadella, pre-cooked beef cutlets, prosciutto and other cold cuts. There's also tasty olovia salad — a style of potato salad made with chopped chicken breast.
Dining out with
the Mail Tribune
Qzeen Armenian Deli & Cafe
in Cobblestone Village
1263 N. Riverside Ave., No. 4
Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday through Saturday
Partners — and cousins — Savak Hakaordian and Walter Thoomickian run the Armenian eatery located at the north end of the commercial and office-space complex.
To get there, walk past the west side of Hannah's Restaurant (the old Casa Ramos Mexican Restaurant) and follow your nose to Qzeen.
Armenian cuisine is world cuisine. It's not exclusive to the small republic tucked into the mountains between the Black and Caspian seas in Eurasia. Armenian communities have thrived around the globe since World War I.
Hakaordian was born in Iran, and Thoomickian was born in India. The men lived in Southern California for many years.
Their new cafe looks a bit sparse with its clean, white walls, deli and cold drink cases, a counter and a few aluminum chairs and tables. There is plenty of sunshine beaming through the windows, though, and aromas wafting from the kitchen are proof that something delicious is cooking.
Orders are packaged for takeout. Customers are welcome to eat at a table.
My dining partner's mortadella sandwich ($4.95) was a hoagie-style sub touting a generous portion of the Italian sausage garnished with tomato and pickle. Onion is optional; add cheese for $1.
I let out a little cry of delight when I opened my sandwich and discovered five perfect falafel balls drizzled with a creamy sauce and wrapped in soft pita bread. The falafel sandwich ($6.50) is served with a juicy, herbaceous shirazi salad made with cucumbers and tomatoes, and hummus garnished with olive oil and a spicy variety of paprika. Toss these on top of the falafel sandwich, and you've got an outstanding combination of flavors.
I was offered a sample of olovia, the chicken and potato salad made with hard-cooked eggs, peas and carrots. One bite told me I had to order an eight-ounce package ($4.50) to share. A sample of tabbouleh — a salad made of bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers and finely chopped herbs — also was brought to our table. It was the freshest I've tasted.
The flavor of Hakaordian's and Thoomickian's food relies more on the freshness of its ingredients than excessive use of salt or heavy spices. Fresh herbs are used extensively.
We chose nazook — flaky pastry with a sweet filling — for dessert (75 cents). There's also baklava and other Eurasian pastries.
Cobblestone Village is at 1263 N. Riverside Ave. Qzeen is No. 4 in the complex.
The deli and cafe is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
I've only been to Qzeen's once and already I'm a regular.
— Laurie Heuston