Baklava every bit as good as we once had in Istanbul

Cedar Café

246 E. Burke Ave., Towson, (443) 275-2592,

We almost drove past Cedar Café's mint-green storefront, at the corner of Hillen Road and Burke Avenue, the other afternoon; we reversed down Hillen and parked in its small lot. Inside it was empty, save for the girl working the counter, but over the course of our sit-down lunch, three other patrons stopped in for to-go options. We've been on a hummus kick of late, so we ordered the appetizer with warm pita bread for $5.25 and added shawarma spiced lamb for $2.70 extra. The tahini-heavy chickpea blend was exceptionally creamy but could have used more citrus and spice; it felt heavy on the palate. We needed a Boylan's Ginger Ale ($2.29) to refresh us in between bites. The lamb was chewy and fairly mild. The pita reminded us of the prepackaged stuff you get at the grocery store, with no butter or oil applied, and it wasn't terribly warm. We were a bit disappointed with our Cedar Café experience, then, but then tried a bite of the baklava (we got a sampler with five pieces for $4.75)-it was top-notch, pistachio-heavy, every bit as good as baklava we once had in Istanbul. A man came in and ordered falafel, and we eavesdropped (we admit it!) on his conversation with the gregarious counter girl, who allayed his concerns that his falafel was being fried up by someone other than Buthaina Mansour, Cedar Café's owner and the woman behind the baklava. She assured him that Mansour mixes up the spice base for the falafel in advance, so the quality would be the same no matter who cooked it. We can't be sure of that, but we're game to return another time when Mansour is definitely in the kitchen.

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