Gitan Bistro Cru
800 S. Kenwood Ave., (410) 276-1200
A two-dollar white sangria in an air-conditioned bistro can be a beautiful thing, especially after a few hours of research in a government office building and a 40-minute hot-pavement walk on a 95-degree Baltimore day. It was Tuesday, so sangria was $2 a glass all night (white or red, regularly $7) and tacos were $2.50 at Gitan, a French-Mediterranean bistro in Canton. The sangria came with plenty of lemon and lime to take the sweet edge off, which made it much more refreshing.
We decided to skip the tacos and instead focus on the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern options. We wanted to start with something light and cool, and the “Village Snacks: Simple, Humble, Delicious” heading on the menu caught our attention. First we ordered the moujadara ($6), a combination of warm brown lentils and rice with onions and seasonings that came with a shredded cabbage and cucumber salad with a lemon vinaigrette. It was hardly snack size—more like a small, hearty, filling entrée. (Those humble villagers must all be sturdy.) Next up was the labneh with za’atar ($6). The thick, cold, full-fat strained yogurt was brimming with olive oil, herbs, and sesame seeds and was served with crostini. It was good on a hot day, especially if you like sumac, and it would have been even better with a beer. Two other village snacks, the "fool" with fava beans ($6) and something called a “peasant classic”—dried crushed wheat cooked in tomato sauce with a side salad ($6)—will definitely be sampled next time around. They would pair well with the kefta ($10), a seasoned Mediterranean minced beef that we’ve enjoyed previously.
Pauline Guiragoss, who owns Gitan with her husband John and is a native of Lebanon, does much of the cooking, all from scratch. She is definitely part of the Gitan experience: She tries to make the rounds and talk to the customers—about food, the neighborhood, and Baltimore—when she can get out of the kitchen.
You can make a meal out of mezze here, but Gitan has plenty of soups (lentil, cabbage, shrimp bisque), omelets, entrees, and some basic American bar chow too, if that’s your preference. There are happy-hour drink prices most days, and a new brunch on Sundays. On Mondays, you can get a half-pound (!) burger for a mere $5. Just in time for preseason football.