You hafta Yaffa

Miamisburg’s Mid East feast

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The Yaffa Mix Grill at Beavercreek’s Mediterranean Yaffa Grill

Really, you do. That was the conclusion lovely lunch companion Janet and I reached as we sampled the myriad tasty dishes before us at our recent visit to Yaffa Market and Grill’s Miamisburg location. Tucked away in the Rand Plaza near the Dayton Mall, Yaffa is the area’s go-to for Middle Eastern foods and products, and one of the most delicious lunches to be found anywhere.

The counter to order and seating are in the back of the space near the butcher case. Yaffa’s website boasts the best Halal Mediterranean cuisine in the world, and there’s a sign outside advertising a Halal butcher. What is Halal? The word is Arabic for permissible, and here it refers to the way in which the animals are slaughtered. Halal butchers use the sharpest blades possible to eliminate pain, and offer thanks and blessing to Allah for the food.

Yaffa Grill’s menu is posted above the counter, and it’s a lot to take in if you are unfamiliar with Mediterranean dishes. The Yaffa Grilled Entrees section is a great bet because each entree includes rice, pita and two of the following: Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, Arabic Salad, Tahini Salad or Yogurt Salad. (This was pointed out to us by the very helpful man behind the counter when we tried to order WAAAY too much food.) You can see many of the salads and side options in trays, like at a Chipotle, so if you are unsure you can simply point to what looks appealing. We were enticed by the look of what was in the gleaming metal trays, and so excited to experience everything that our helpful menu explainer very kindly sent over a few extras for us to try!

Grill skill

Janet and I settled on Chicken Shawarma ($10.75) and the Yaffa Mix Grill ($12.75). The Shawarma (also available with beef and lamb) is marinated meat layered and grilled on a spit, which is shaved off in ribbons. (Think the more familiar Greek gyro). Served over rice with slices of onion and dusted with dried spices and fresh herbs, the meat was savory and delicious, perfectly complemented with the bright creamy tahini and mild yogurt dipping sauces. The Mix Grill featured mesquite grilled hunks of chicken, lamb and sausage over the rice topped with the herb and spice mix and onions. The chicken was particularly impressive, juicy and flavorful inside with a lightly grilled exterior. But I’m getting ahead of myself. By the time these entrees arrived, we were already in love.

Eat and repeat

The meal began with the sides, salads and a basket of warm pita. Conversation halted, and was limited to “This is so good” on repeat as we ate. The Turkish Salad is not to be missed. Pureed tomatoes, onions, lemon, chili sauce and cumin make up this flavorful and beautiful almost condiment-like dish. Similar in texture was the Eggplant Salad, though milder in taste. The Arabic Salad featured the crunch of fresh diced tomato, onion and cucumber, with tangy lemon, fresh mint and parsley dressing. The creamy Yogurt Salad had cucumber and dried mint and was a nice foil to the more assertive flavors of the other dishes.

The two dishes that were sent over for us to try were Falafel ($2.99) and Musabaha ($4.50). I have never been much of a Falafel fan, usually finding it heavy and greasy, and frankly a bit dull. Yaffa Grill’s version—light and pillowy inside with chickpeas, onions, garlic and spices encased in a golden crunchy exterior shell made a believer out of me. The Musabaha, similar to hummus in that it is made with pureed chickpeas, is mixed with tahini, olive oil and lemon juice and topped with boiled chick peas dusted with a mix of dried sumac and fresh parsley.

The vibrant red sumac and bright green parsley surrounding the center mound of chickpeas of the Musabaha prompted Janet to remark on the how carefully and artistically presented each dish was. Though served on humble paper plates with plastic silverware, this food could easily be presented at a banquet on lovely platters. Reminiscent of Indian cuisine, these dishes offered the same visual appeal with a variety of bright colors and textures. Much care was taken to prepare this feast for our eyes as well as our mouths, and much appreciation was expressed as we gladly sampled Yaffa Grill’s offerings.

Just desserts

Though we already had asked for to go boxes, recognizing that there would be enough food for another meal (maybe two!), dessert was on my mind. I love baklava, but decided on trying something a little different. Kunafa ($4.99) is very typical in Arabic, Turkish, Armenian and Greek cultures, each having their own slightly different version. It’s a pastry made with semolina flour and a soft mild white cheese soaked in a sweet syrup made with sugar and rose water. Crushed pistachios are sprinkled on top as a garnish. The pleasantly slight graininess of the warm pastry and melty sweet cheese along with the exotic note of rosewater was an amazing experience. I am certain the baklava is delicious, but I will probably never know since I will be unable to step away from the Kunafa. On the other hand there is no law against two desserts, is there?

Yaffa Grill has another location near Wright State University. I would be in favor of many more Yaffa Grill locations all over Dayton. It’s a cuisine that deserves to be a lot more popular than it is considering the freshness, taste, and visual appeal of the offerings. If you’ve never tried it, now is the time. Grab a friend and go for lunch. Just don’t plan on talking about anything other than the food!

Yaffa Grill is located at 21 Alexandersville Rd. in Miamisburg. For more information, please visit or call 937.866.9999.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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