[caption id="attachment_3987" align="alignright" ]Blue Nile 3 Blue Nile Chicken[/caption] The latest excursion for the Out to Lunch on the Road Less Traveled Bunch was to the Blue Nile*, a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant in the Village near Purdue University.  It's a bit hard to find in an alley off Northwestern--it's in the back half of the Potbelly Sandwich building-- but it's well worth looking for.  And the day we were there, we weren't the only ones who found it.  The small restaurant with colorful walls and a welcoming staff was packed, in spite of its hidden-away location. This restaurant has been around for ten years but it’s one of those hidden gems that too few people know about!  Our regular group of dining divas was joined by a coworker and frequent Blue Nile diner, Jason Burks. [caption id="attachment_3981" align="aligncenter" ]Blue Nile Hummus Blue Nile Hummus[/caption] We were greeted by our server, Lupe, and chef/owner, Hani.  They regaled us with an array of appetizers, all from the menu, which included hummus (pureed chickpeas with tahini and garlic), baba ghanoush (pureed smoked eggplant with tahini), tabouleh (cracked wheat, tomato, and parsley dressed with lemon juice and olive oil), falafil (deep fried vegetable patties made from chickpeas), and of course, endless pita bread.  We guarantee the hummus and falafil platters were licked clean. [caption id="attachment_3983" align="alignright" ]Blue Nile Dining Divas The Out to Lunch Buddies![/caption] Does all this sound foreign to you? It's positively delicious and we encourage you to give this wonderful cuisine a try. The flavors are very approachable, even though the words may be new. Bev, Kay and Margy all agreed that the vegetarian options, even for dedicated meat eaters are super satisfying. If you'd like to try an array of appetizers without ordering them separately, try the mazaa platter which features hummus, tabouleh, falafil and grape leaves with pita bread.  You can politely taste each one of these individually or dive in and dip a piece of falafil in the hummus and then the tabouleh and enjoy a combination of flavors! This is one of our favorite menu items in town. [caption id="attachment_3985" align="alignright" ]Mediterranean meat loaf Mediterranean Meat Loaf[/caption] Appetizers were followed by kefta, a sort of Middle Eastern meatloaf served with saffron rice; shish taouk (chicken kebab), wonderful tender cubes of marinated (lemon juice, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika) charbroiled chicken; mojadara, a delightful vegetarian entree made with lentils, rice, onions, blended with aromatic spices including cinnamon and clove; and beef kebab, spiced charbroiled beef cubes (not normally on the menu, but may be available if you ask nicely).  Don't forget to order tea--either sage or mint, both are wonderful. While feasting, we were joined by chef/owner Hani, who is originally from Bethlehem.  He has been in the U.S. since 1978, and attended school in Ft. Wayne and the University of Tennessee.  He is trained in architecture and engineering, but his true love is cooking and we loved hearing his story. He said, "I was lucky-- cooking runs in our family.  Most of my family members are chefs.  It runs in the blood."  Many of the dishes on the menu at the Blue Nile are old family recipes. [caption id="attachment_3979" align="alignleft" ]Blue Nile 1 A full table equals a full belly![/caption] Full disclosure:  most of us have been to the Blue Nile many times.  It's one of our favorite restaurants—with consistently great food and service.  Two of us nearly always order the mazaa platter and the other orders the falafil and hummus sandwich.  Excellent as these are, we learned what we have been missing by not investigating the menu more. We hope to see you at the Blue Nile! *(117 Northwestern Ave #2; open M-Sat 11-11, Sunday 12-11) Blue Nile on Urbanspoon