Smile Politely

Taste the world, Mediterranean style

Around 5 p.m. on a Friday evening, I took a trip into Campustown to meet a friend for dinner at a local restaurant. Mashawi Grill, a new Mediterranean place, opened on Green Street earlier this year so I decided this would be a good restaurant to check out. Located next to Brother’s Bar & Grill, one of the popular hubs in Champaign, you’ll find Mashawi Grill, and its bright yellow sign is hard to miss. The poster on the window below the sign shows images of a few of their dishes, including large pictures of meat roasting on a spit. This restaurant, however, does not cater to meat-lovers only. There are several vegetarian options available on the menu.

When I went inside the restaurant, it was cool—a pleasant contrast to the warmth of the outdoors—and surprisingly quiet. Admittedly, it was still early in the evening, but customers already sat at both the tables on the lower level. While I like the spaciousness of the restaurant, I wish they offered more seating on the first floor. Besides the two tables, there are a four seats by the window in a nook in the corner, but the chairs are too far apart and permanently situated. There is plenty of seating upstairs, but it was completely empty when I was there. I noticed that people trickled in either alone or in pairs, with most of them doing takeout, but I wanted to get a better feel for the atmosphere so I ordered in.

The metallic tables and matching light fixtures, the brick wall, green accent wall, and clean counters give the restaurant a chic urban feel. At the counter I browsed the orange menus and was tempted by some of the freshly baked pastries displayed behind the glass. Everything on the menu is pretty cheap. Sandwiches are $3-$5, entrees are $7-$10, and salads are $3-$7. Not only are the prices reasonable, the quantity of the food is very generous and can easily serve two.

The first dish I tasted was the hummus shawarma with beef ($8), one of the classic dishes served at the restaurant. As someone who had never tasted shawarma, I didn’t know what to expect from the flavor or texture. The meat itself was too dry for my taste, but I enjoyed the warm smokiness and jerky-like texture combined with the creaminess of the hummus. The hummus was citrusy and nutty and when it was combined with the beef and some pita bread, all the flavors blended together perfectly.


I also got a taste of the Greek salad, curious to see how it compares to other Greek salads. The small salad cost $4 and I expected a measly serving with a few vegetables sprinkled on top, so I was completely surprised by the towering pile I received when my order was ready. For a small, the Greek Salad is huge and loaded with red onions, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, peppers, romaine lettuce, feta cheese, and drizzled with an olive oil and vinegar dressing. There was even a slight hint of oregano which I really enjoyed. It’s a classic salad, nothing new, but certainly worth the purchase.

For those looking for a vegetarian entree, the Falafel Sandwich is your best choice. Not only is it cheap, priced at $3 for a fairly large wrap, it’s also delicious and very filling. Inside the wheat wrap are diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers surrounded by Tzatziki, a cool and creamy yogurt sauce seasoned with herbs. If you’ve never tried falafel, it’s definitely worth the purchase. It has a grainy texture and a nutty flavor with a hint of chickpeas. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, this sandwich will hit the spot and possibly even leave you with leftovers if you end up ordering a salad or side dish.


If you’re looking for something cheap and filling, Mashawi Grill is the place to go. The smaller menu makes it easier to choose an item, though the vegetarian options are limited. The food itself is tasty, nothing upscale and nothing super outstanding, but the Mediterranean flavors are a nice change from all the Asian flavors in Campustown.

Mashawi Grill is located at 617 E Green St, Champaign. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

All photos by Madeleine Marsh.

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