Home-cooked Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food is exactly what Collegetown needs, and Loumies has blown away all expectations. Inspired by the flavors of the Middle East, Persia and North Africa, Loumies has created a delicious blend of tasty dishes for Ithaca’s students and residents. They offer scrumptious dishes including Kufta Meatballs, okra stew and Labneh sandwiches, with flavorful sides of hummus, “Seven Spice” rice and more.
Loumies is a family business. While there, I got a chance to speak with the chef, Rania Chidiac Kaldi and her husband, Raed. Kaldi, previously a Director of Corporate Communications for Western Union in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, left the corporate setting to share her love for cooking.
The couple describes 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 expands the menu with many new flavors and dietary accommodations, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.
I tried five different dishes: the 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 compliment the wonderful aroma every few seconds as I carried the bag of food back to my apartment.
The pies were doughy, chewy and absolutely satisfying: the perfect quick bite on your way through Collegetown. While the Za’atar and cheese pies were large rolls with spices and cheese on top, respectively, the meat pie was a sphere filled with delicious ground meat spiced with cinnamon, allspice and more. The okra stew was fresh and perfectly flavorful with blends of onion and coriander. The vegetable tagine was warm and comforting; the beautiful aroma of cinnamon and other spices complimented the variety of squashes, parsnips carrots, chickpeas and dried apricots.
The Kufta was a hit among my friends and me. Growing up, Kufta (or Kofta) was a favorite dish of mine. It’s a delicious blend of meat, spices, onions and other ingredients, cooked in the shape and style of the chef’s liking. These Kufta were in the shape of meatballs, and Loumies served them with a delectable, aromatic tomato sauce.
While I didn’t get a chance last time, I’m looking forward to trying the Seven-Spice chicken during my next visit, as well as the restaurant’s Armenian-inspired pita bread.
Kaldi and her husband emphasized how excited they were to provide home-cooked meals for Ithaca students and residents. Their restaurant is homey and inviting, with an open space and a few seats to sit down and chat.
Collegetown has lacked somewhere 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 give you an incredible experience for your first taste! Next time, I plan on going back to try the Kufta Sandwich, Peasant Salad and Ash Soup.
I would absolutely recommend the dishes I tried, and I encourage anyone curious to go and check it out. Kaldi expressed pride in her cooking, and it’s well-earned. Whether you stop there for an iced coffee or a Za’atar pie, there really is something for everyone at Loumies, and I’m excited to welcome them into Collegetown.
Natasha Aysseh is a Junior in Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]