Al Miraj, a new Mediterranean grill downtown, has the latest word in ethnic cuisine in Waco. This new restaurant has only been open since Tuesday and already the place has received dozens of positive customer reviews.
Located at 416 Franklin Ave. right off of Fifth Street, the Al Miraj Mediterranean Grill is one of the first of its kind in downtown Waco.
The restaurant features dishes, desserts and beverages from several different countries, including lamb kabob plates, curries and gyros.
The manager of the restaurant, Amir Zakirali, has lived in Waco for 26 years.
He said he always wanted to open a restaurant, and saw the growth of diversity in Waco for the past few years as an opportunity to make that happen.
Zakirali said the food at Al Miraj is a representation of the Mediterranean as a whole and does not come from solely one country. The menu also features familiar plates like burgers and French fries in addition to authentic Mediterranean and Indian cuisine.
Amanda Carlyle, a hostess at the restaurant, said Al Miraj has been busy from the start.
“My favorite thing about this place is the vibe. It’s really upbeat,” Carlyle said.
Zakirali said the growing number of differing cultures in Waco encouraged him to bring Mediterranean food to the area.
Zakirali said he thinks the restaurant is a symbol of downtown Waco’s cultural growth.
In light of several renovations and additions to downtown buildings, the opening of Al Miraj can be included in the long list of changes that are taking place in Waco’s city center.
“Cultural authenticity is very important to us. Our goal was to bring together the cultures of several different countries through food that will appeal to everyone,” Zakirali said.
The restaurant décor has a distinctly Persian theme, featuring small Persian rugs on the walls and floors.
Small ceramic artifacts from countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy and Egypt, are arranged on shelves around the ceiling.
As customers eat their meals they can hear a mixture of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music in the background.
Zakirali said there is also a back patio where customers can sit and enjoy fresh air.
There are the beginnings of a mural on the walls surrounding the back patio.
Zakirali said the mural will eventually resemble an Arab-style palace.
He also said he plans to have belly dancers performing in the restaurant by next month.
He said many local bands and musicians have already approached him about performing in the restaurant.
Zakirali said he hopes to see the restaurant become a major part of the Waco community in terms of bringing Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food to Waco.
“I want to see it grow in connection with the community center, with Baylor and certainly with local churches,” Zakirali said.
“It’s important to us to bring these tastes to people who may not have tried them before.
Al Miraj is open seven days a week.