Cazba 

211 N. 8th St., 208-381-0222. Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

In the pantheon of ethnic restaurants, Mediterranean food—Greek, Lebanese and so forth—tends to get short shrift in America. Some places have a nice selection, but it's not all that common. Fortunately, Boise has several restaurants that deal in the sweet and tangy cuisine of that fabled area, and one of the oldest and best established is Cazba. Perched in the middle of a block of 8th Street devoted to good eats of many kinds, Cazba stands out as an oasis of sun and sea-influenced style.

I ventured inside one Monday afternoon by my lonesome, not knowing what to expect in terms of wait time; the times I've been by in the past were in the evening, and usually the place was doing good business. However, luck was with me, in that the place was empty. The waitress asked me if I wanted to be seated inside or out, and although the weather was pleasantly warm, I decided not to tempt fate or the gray pall overhead and opted for indoors. As a result of my singular dining, I found the service to be prompt and helpful without someone hovering over me every two minutes (something I appreciate) and found myself admiring the warm decor, which combines primarily Greek trappings like pillars and murals with a low-key contemporary sensibility. The atmosphere of Cazba is, like the decor, relaxing and conducive to unwinding. If it had been later in the day, or if I'd had a designated driver, this review would have a discussion of beer in it as well. Mmm, beer.

Anyway, within a few minutes, my iced tea arrived, soon followed by my chosen appetizer of pita bread and tzatziki sauce ($5.95). The tea was a little more tart than I expected, but refreshing all the same, and it set off the flavors in my appetizer nicely. Tzatziki is a cucumber yogurt sauce, and Cazba makes it tangy without overdoing the kick. Not that the pita bread needed it; warm, soft and almost sweet, I could have eaten another dozen pieces and not even bothered with lunch proper. I've eaten a lot of different pita breads, and this was among the very best I've ever had.

Unfortunately, I hadn't eaten anything that day, so the bread vanished far too quickly. Luckily, lunch was right behind. A plate piled up with a gyro delight ($8.95) soon arrived, rice pilaf and greens on the side. The greens were nice and crisp, but the rice pilaf left something to be desired. It tasted strongly of curry and was almost bitter compared to the gustatory carnival of the tzatziki. I left it untouched after a few bites, but once I tucked into the gyro delight, I couldn't have cared less. It lived up to its name; generous portions of seasoned beef and lamb, grilled up right with onions and mushrooms, topped off with a helping of feta and wrapped in more of the wonderful pita bread and served hot. I've been a fan of gyros for a long time, starting with a fondly remembered gyro shop I used to frequent in college, but this gyro delight was the best I've had by far.

There's more than one way to get your Mediterranean fix in town, but if good food and nice atmosphere are the prime considerations for your dining experience, you'll want to give Cazba a visit. Eating there will leave you with a full stomach and a wallet that doesn't feel drained, plus there's such a nice vibe to the joint that you can't help but be in a good mood when you leave.

—Brandon Nolta prefers dining solo so he can read his manga in private.

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