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This Mediterranean Lunch Spot Is Hidden In The Back Of A Loop Jewelry Shop

By Rachel Cromidas in Food on Jan 27, 2017 7:13PM

Wabash Combo and Kefta Kebob Sandwich at Oasis.

Oasis Cafe may be a Loop officer worker's best-kept secret. We visited this gem of a lunch spot, tucked in the back of a Jeweler's Row diamond store, for the latest edition of our "Hidden" restaurant series.

Oasis has been serving up fast and affordable Middle Eastern-inspired food for three decades on Wabash Avenue (though it's changed ownership and locations a couple of times, you can find it now at 21 N. Wabash Ave.), long before developers started talking about their Wabash Corridor revitalization ambitions. The CTA's massive (and protracted) Washington/Wabash station construction project has all but shut down foot traffic to the block in recent months, but Oasis is there, slinging shawarma and kebabs from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and for a half-day on Saturdays.

Oasis bills itself as the oldest Middle Eastern spot in the Loop, but you'll have to wind your way past rows of jewelry cases filled with rings and watches to get to the counter and seating on the first floor of the Jeweler's Mall. I recently stopped by with my partner—after re-assuring him that this was the only reason I would ever ask him to visit a jewelry store.

Oasis serves daily specials, typically for $8.49, with a mix of vegetarian, chicken and meat options, and sides of impeccably fried falafel. We ordered the Wabash Combo daily special, which features Moroccan chicken Pastilla—picture a fillo dough wrap, stuffed with chicken, carrot, green pepper and onion—served with sides of hummus, salad, seasoned black-eyed peas and falafel. The falafel tasted impressively fresh and crunchy, and the hummus was thick and smooth. While the wrap itself tasted a bit dry by comparison, the chicken and vegetables blended together well in the hand-held wrap—which made it the perfect desk lunch.

We also ordered the Kefta Kebab Sandwich: ground beef and lamb kebab pieces, mixed together with onions, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes and yogurt sauce inside a warm pita. At $6.49, it made for an affordable and quick lunch option, but you might want to add a side or two if you come with a big appetite.

Other classic dishes include fattoush salad, stuffed grape leaves, lentil soup and baba ganouj. The Loop may be more filled with fast-casual lunch spots and even a few shawarma chains that have recently moved on to Wabash Avenue, stop by Oasis for a meal with some history in an unbeatably-glitzy spot.