New west Lawrence restaurant will offer taste of the Mediterranean, ranging from falafel to meat pies

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

A large menu board shows a platter of stuffed grape leaves at Petra 2 Go, a new Middle Eastern restaurant opening in west Lawrence.

In the end, Sam Mulki’s wife was right.

Back in 1988, when Mulki came to the U.S. from Jordan, his wife — an American — always urged him to cook his native Middle Eastern dishes.

“But I would say no, no, I came here to America and I want to try American food,” Mulki said. “And I liked it.”

Well … that’s true, but not enough that he forgot his Jordanian roots. So, he would end up making some dishes to take into his workplace break room — first at the now-defunct Farmland fertilizer plant and for more than a decade at Cottonwood Inc. Then, he ended up becoming the unofficial caterer for his adult league soccer team’s end-of-season celebration.

And word started spreading about his food in other ways, so much so that Mulki came around to what his wife had been saying for nearly 35 years: He should be cooking his Middle Eastern recipes.

Soon, he will be making those dishes in the new Petra 2 Go Mediterranean Food restaurant at Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. Patrons of the small shopping center/convenience store at the southwest corner of the intersection perhaps have noticed the sign for months. Mulki said converting the shop space into a restaurant has taken much longer than expected, but construction work now is in its final stages, and Mulki told me he expects to open in 30 to 45 days.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Sam Mulki points to a menu board at Petra 2 Go, a Mediterranean restaurant he is opening in west Lawrence.

When the restaurant does open, he expects it to become the go-to place in the city for a variety of savory Mediterranean pies.

“I think our pastries will be our specialty,” he said.

The menu is expected to have a meat pie with a tomato sauce, a meat pie with a yogurt sauce, a cheese-filled pie and a spinach-filled pie, among others.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Meat pies that are expected to be on the menu at Petra 2 Go are shown.

Look for the menu to also have classic Mediterranean dishes like falafel and gyro sandwiches, stuffed grape leaves, hummus and tabouli, which is an herb-packed salad with big doses of parsley, cucumber, tomato, olive oil and lemon.

More than anything, expect the restaurant to have lots of dishes with just the right blend of spices.

“The secret is the spices,” Mulki said of Middle Eastern dishes.

Cardamom — a spice so fresh and clean that Mulki said it often is used as a breath freshener in Jordan — is frequently used in the dishes. But there are several others too. Mulki said learning how to combine them is key, but so too is not holding back in their use. Mulki said he remembers the first time he ate a rotisserie chicken in America. Chicken was a frequent dish of his youth, but the American version was far different because it seemed so lightly seasoned.

“I thought, we are missing a lot here,” when it comes to spices, Mulki said.

If you are going to have spices, it makes sense to have drinks too, and Mulki is excited about offering a unique set of drinks. In Jordan, no drink is more traditional than a mixture of lemon juice and mint, Mulki said. That concoction will be made fresh on site, but the restaurant will offer several prepackaged drink options from overseas. Those include Vimto — a British soft drink that includes a mixture of grapes, raspberries and blackcurrants — and Barbican, which is a type of nonalcoholic malt drink that is popular in the Middle East with a variety of fruit flavors.

As its name suggests, Petra 2 Go will serve only takeout. As for the other part of its name, Petra is the name of the city in south Jordan, near where Mulki grew up. In fact, Petra is the most visited city in Jordan, featuring ornate buildings carved out of the rose-colored stone that is predominant in the area. Mulki has several pictures of the city hanging in the restaurant, and he proudly pointed to them as I asked him about the name of the restaurant.

Sharing information about his native land — Petra was featured in one of the “Indiana Jones” movies, he told me, correctly assessing my archeological frame of reference — is one of the aspects of the restaurant he is most looking forward to, he said.

“I’m dying to open,” he said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Petra 2 Go Mediterranean Food is under construction in the shopping center at the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa Drive, just behind the Phillips 66 gas station and convenience store that is located on the corner.


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