Last week, my friend wanted to discuss some rather private matters concerning her relationship with her boyfriend. I don’t know when I became Judge Judy, but she was insistent, so I gave in. Still not thrilled about spending hours listening to other people’s business, I suggested we multi-task and do it over lunch instead. We decided that the most private place to eat on campus would be Zaya’s at Dooley’s, and the plan was set.
I’ve only been at the restaurant a few times since it became Zaya’s at Dooley’s (back in the day, it used to just be Dooley’s Den), so I was still surprised to see how the menu has changed since then.
As we stood in line and waited to order, I was temporarily distracted from my friend’s urgent hisses about what her boyfriend had done and whether I approved and whatnot by the enormous range of food options.
Many items from the old Dooley’s Den menu, like some breakfast choices, remained options, but Zaya tried to incorporate them into its Mediterranean culture. How successful these attempts have been is another story — I found it particularly amusing that the boring platter featuring average foods like eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes had been re-dubbed the “Not Mediterranean.”
Questions about the menu abounded, but my friend didn’t seem as intrigued. In fact, she seemed less than pleased when she asked, “can you believe he did that to me?” and I responded with a distracted, “what do you think makes the Mediterranean chicken tenders different from normal chicken tenders? Are the chickens raised in Greece? Is it because they use sea salt or something?”
My friend and I eventually both ordered chicken shawarma platters, hefty combo meals that included a generous serving (or three) of a choice of chicken as well as two sides. It was enough food to satisfy the most voracious of appetites — and trust me, listening to your most garrulous pal’s blathering about the scandalous behaviors of her significant other can quickly become a physically demanding business.
After we ordered, we stationed ourselves at a little table in the corner of the restaurant, and she dove into discussing the details of her situation. Thankfully, the atmosphere at Zaya’s is much quieter than that of other places to eat on campus.
After all, when you’re about to engage in a probing analysis of a messy college relationship, the last thing you want is for a stranger to come up, poking you and asking to steal an unused chair from your table every few minutes.
My friend was forced to stop short in the middle of a heated whisper when one of the staff members came to deliver the delicious cornucopia of Mediterranean food — shawarma, baba ganouj, hummus, Greek salad, etc. But as he laid our food out on the table for us, he was even polite enough to turn his head slightly to the side and pretend that he hadn’t been listening in on our ridiculously inappropriate conversation. Now that’s good service.
Upon first bite, I was amazed, as I had been in the past, by how good the food is at this on-campus restaurant.
“Mmm,” I said. “I know, right?!” she exclaimed, mistaking my nondescript grunt for a sign of disapproval. I ran with it. She continued to fill me in about her boyfriend’s transgressions in the past, as I continued to appreciate how awesome Mediterranean food is.
So somehow, thanks to Zaya’s, I managed to survive the next hour or so of this excruciating chitchat.
Okay, fine, this whole experience might mean I’m kind of a crappy friend. But really, let’s be honest: how incredible is it that somewhere in the world, a culture has managed to make something delicious out of eggplant?
— Contact Catherine Cai.