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Originally published Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 7:01 PM

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Garlic Crush: Falling in love with this Mediterranean eatery in Bellevue

Garlic Crush — a Mediterranean, Lebanese and Greek eatery at 102 Bellevue Way N.E. in downtown Bellevue — serves huge portions of crush-worthy kebabs, shawarma, gyros and more. Halal is a specialty. It's owned and operated by Maher Jabbour, who also runs Byblos Deli on Northeast 20th Street in Bellevue.

Seattle Times A&E editor

Garlic Crush

Mediterranean

102 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue; 425-455-2235

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

Etc: All credit cards accepted; parking in adjacent lot (shared with Sports Authority); no obstacles to access; no alcohol.

Prices: $

The surname of the restaurant Garlic Crush could refer to any number of things. The way garlic is mashed in a press, for instance — quite liberally, in this Eastside eatery's recipes. Or the adoration inspired by the Mediterranean menu. Or maybe just the crush of people angling to get in at dinnertime.

On a recent Friday night, the place was so packed with families it was nearly impossible to get through the doorway, let alone make it to the counter to place an order. But the food, the portions and the prices proved more than worth the wait.

The menu: A sister to Bellevue's Byblos Deli, Garlic Crush serves a broad array of Greek, Lebanese and Middle Eastern dishes, many prepared in accordance with halal dietary laws: souvlaki, shawarma, kebabs and more. Vegetarian options include falafel and spanakopita. Gyros and kebab sandwiches range from $5.99 to $7.29; full plates (with rice, pita bread and soup or salad), from $8.99 to $9.69.

What to write home about: Standouts are the gyro meat (a roasted beef and lamb mix) and the grilled chicken kebab — both deliciously spiced and tender enough to render knives extraneous. To the $5.99 gyro, we added tasty fries and a fountain drink for an additional $2.49; the heaping kebab plate ($9.49) was arranged especially for garlic lovers, with hummus and garlic paste.

What to skip: The lentil soup was thick and salty but short on flavor. Choose the salad instead — crispy greens topped with a piquant, garlicky dressing.

The setting: The colorful, neon-lit storefront is centrally located on Bellevue Way — convenient for shoppers, nearby workers and museum-goers. Guests can take out or stay in and eat at one of about 10 tables.

Note on the restroom: While the restaurant is bright and clean, on the night we visited, the bathroom was pretty messy. Owner Maher Jabbour, contacted later, admitted he was understaffed that night and vowed to have things shipshape by the following weekend, with restroom checks every 30 minutes. Business has been so surprisingly good even through the recession, Jabbour said, that he's ready to bring on extra help.

Summing up: We fed — overfed? — three adults and one kid for $42.72. (Note: The grown-ups drank water, not sodas, which are $1.49 each.) For taste and value, this place is worthy of a serious crush.

Lynn Jacobson: 206-464-2714 or ljacobson@seattletimes.com.

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