Sometimes, the obvious is right in front of you. When It's Greek To Me opened in the food court at Northpark Mall a couple of weeks ago, it was obvious the menu would have a Mediterranean influence. What becomes clear with your first bite is the not so obvious. This is an authentic version of Greek food — not something posing as Greek food.

I visited It's Greek To Me during a slow period at the food court on Wednesday afternoon. I ordered a gyro for $5.99 and two sides, four grape leaf rolls and a helping of tabouli. Each side cost $3.49. It was a lot of food, but I wanted to try the sides to get a better sense of what was being offered. I'm glad I did. The total bill came to $14.02.

The gyro sandwich was spot on. It was exactly what you would expect — fresh lettuce, tomatoes and red onions, tzatziki sauce and meat wrapped in warm pita bread.

I've been a fan of tabouli since my first experience with this vegetarian salad decades ago at Jamil's in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The ingredients are the same. It's a mixture of finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, onion, and bulgur that has been seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice. Some add chopped cucumber or mint. Although the ingredients are virtually the same, the overall flavor can vary widely depending on how those ingredients are portioned.

This tabouli — also spelled tabbouleh — was heavy with fresh parsley and lemon juice. I think this is the more traditional approach to making this dish. A touch of salt made it perfect. You get enough for two people.

The grape leaf rolls, served hot, contain seasoned rice. This is another vegetarian dish with lots of flavor. The order was for four rolls, but I got five.

This restaurant, which is sandwiched between Chick-fil-A and Great American Cookie, also serves baklava, flan, gelato and a parfait.

When I finished my meal, I went back to the counter to introduce myself to the manager and tell her that I am a columnist for the Globe. Before I could do that, she got on an order for a large rice bowl. This entree costs $8.99. I watched as she prepared it. It contains rice, meat and all kinds of other ingredients, including feta cheese. It fills a big to-go box. There was easily enough there for two people.

After introducing myself and telling her how much I enjoyed my meal, I asked Heidaya Abdelaziz, the manager, about the rice bowl.

"The rice bowl is the bomb. Everybody loves it," she said. "People keep coming back for it."

Abdelaziz told me that there are three It's Greek To Me restaurants in Oklahoma. The Joplin restaurant is the first in Missouri.

I told that her food has an authentic taste to it.

Abdelaziz, who has 20 years of experience in the preparation and serving of Greek food, said she makes the hummus and tzatziki served there.

"Are you Greek?" I asked.

"I am half," she said.

"Well, that's Greek to me."

New strip mall

A piece of land on the high ground between Macadoodle's and the Walmart store along East 17th Street could become the home for a new strip mall. A Springfield developer is expressing interest in the property.

The property must be rezoned for this project to advance. Details to come.

Temporary opening

With Halloween just a few weeks away, Spirit Halloween has opened in the former Toys R Us building at 630 S. Range Line Road. With more than 1,300 stores across the United States, Spirit Halloween is the largest Halloween retailer in North America.

Spirit Halloween offers a wide assortment of spooky stuff, including costumes for all ages, wigs and masks, and home decor from fog machines to tombstones and coffins. Spirit Halloween is an exclusive provider of animatronics.

If you have news about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, dial 417-623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an email to wkennedy@joplinglobe.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 417-623-8598.

Wally Kennedy is a reporter and columnist for The Joplin Globe.

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