Let’s see, what should you pick up for supper tonight? Burgers? No. Tex-Mex? Nah. Pizza, fried chicken, Asian? Just had that last week.
How about Mediterranean for a change of pace? Yeah, go for a tasty, healthful meal at D’s Mediterranean Grill.
Located across from Mission Waco at 15th Street and Colcord Avenue and opened by Nizam Issa and his wife Diane in 2002, D’s carries chicken-fried steak, burgers, chicken tenders, shrimp and catfish for kids and more traditional customers but is well known for its Middle Eastern cuisine like lamb, kibbe, falafel and gyros.
“Although we offer typical Southern food, most of our customers order Mediterranean dishes,” Diane says. “It is seasoned but not hot, and the antioxidants are good for you. We use fresh herbs, very healthy with hand-squeezed lemon juice and imported spices like fresh garlic, vacuum-packed when ground before being shipped to us, although we grow some outside the restaurant, too.”
Plates start at $17.99 for chicken kabob and lamb kafta, and $19.99 for beef tenderloin and lamb kabob, grilled to perfection with rice and two sides. Other ethnic selections range from tabouli and Lebanese, yogurt and cucumber salads to hummus, baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant), stuffed grape leaves and falafel, along with favorites green beans and pita chips fried in peanut oil.
Traditional sides include french fries, fried green beans and okra, mashed potatoes, corn nuggets and jalapeño poppers.
Chicken tender combos (all with gravy and rolls) cost $19.99 for 12 pieces with a family side, $32.99 for 20 pieces with two family sides and $39.99 for 25 pieces with three family sides, while grilled dinners come with a side, rice and roll for $8.99 (two tenders) or $12.99 (four tenders).
Pita sandwich wraps come with chicken, hummus, falafel or gyro, priced between $4.99 and $6.99 with fries and drinks added for $3. Half salads are $4.99 ($6.99 with chicken or gyro meat) and full cost $6.99 ($9.99 with meat).
Be sure to save room for a dessert of fried fruit pies, lady fingers (both $1), baklava (filo dough with walnuts and pistachios) for $1.99 or Burma (pistachio pastry) for $2.29.
Don’t worry about the quality because that’s #1 on Nizam’s list.
“Price is important but quality, freshness and cleanliness are more important, and we like to pass them along to our customers,” he said. “If I don’t see top-quality products on my shelf, I just tell people we’re out instead of using lesser-quality ones until we get what we need.”
Family members introduced them in Austin in the early 1970s, leading to “love at first sight,” they said, and marriage on Aug. 11, 1974, at Waco’s Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church.
“I was impressed by his warm heart, Christian spirit and work ethic,” Diane remembers. “He has always been very dedicated, even building his mother a bathroom with a septic tank all by himself after his father died in an accident. He doesn’t let anything get in his way.”
Indeed, while in Beirut, Lebanon, as a high school graduate, Nimaz looked up American colleges, selected the University of Texas in Austin, submitted his grades and moved there in 1969. He worked his way through a year of classes before transferring to Southwest Texas State and earning a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1973.
After going back to Lebanon nearly a year, he returned to UT for a Business Administration degree in business finance in 1975 and lived in Saudi Arabia for three years before moving to Waco in 1979 and operating an aluminum business at 17th and Herring Avenue.
Diane worked her way through Baylor as she majored in nutrition, earning a degree that comes in handy while preparing the delectable entrees.
“I was a real estate broker back then and told Nizam it was too much to run two businesses, so we sold the aluminum business,” Diane said. “We already owned this building (formerly a convenience store) and decided to overhaul it.
“At first, I wanted to run a chicken place, so our original name was D’s Chicken Delight, but within a few months, we gradually changed to Mediterranean because Mission Waco and nearby churches said the neighborhood needed ethnic food.”
She also recalls that when they opened, the Food Channel had a story that said nine of 10 restaurants fail within the first six months. Of the seven local eateries that started in 2002, D’s is the only one that hasn’t closed, she said.
Visitors are greeted by a gorgeous painting of the ancient Phoenician port of Byblos (now Jubail) and a quotation from Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Appropriately, Waco Health & Wellness magazine chose the restaurant for its Eat Well Waco program in its winter 2012 issue due to its healthy food options.
Local doctors agree, including D’s regular customer Dr. Jackson Griggs.
Recently named Waco Today’s Person of the Year, Griggs is chief executive officer of the Family Health Center, whose main site is about 100 yards from D’s. He says he tries to pick up food there every chance he gets.
“The food is superb, and Diane and Nizam Issa are excellent hosts and have a big heart for our community,” Griggs said. “I like their careful attention to food quality, and their attention to health protocols gives me a great deal of comfort when I enter the restaurant to purchase my takeout.
“Heart healthy eating is important to all Americans, given that heart disease is the top killer each year in the U.S., and the American Heart Association recommends a Mediterranean diet, which prioritizes vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, fish, poultry, olive oils and nuts — and limiting processed foods and refined carbohydrates.”
A few years after their start the Issas had the restaurant open seven days a week to keep up with the demand. That included many late Saturday nights preparing the Sunday Special for church members.
“Although were usually done by 10, one night we realized we didn’t have time to socialize with anyone at church anymore, often leaving the services early when we did attend, so we decided to close on Sundays,” Nizam said.
Among the recognitions the Issas received over the years was the Model of Unity Award in 2011 by the Community Race Relations. The restaurant also was the recipient of KWTX-TV’s Clean Plate Award.
As with all restaurants, COVID-19 shut down the place in March, but the restaurant wasn’t down long.
“When the pandemic hit, we stayed home 10 days, but he finally said, ‘I can’t just sit home’ because he knew his workers needed a paycheck,” Diane said. “He called both cooks and said, ‘Let’s clean and sanitize to reopen April 1.’ We did, although we only did to-go orders because of the governor’s decree not to seat more than 50%.”
Although D’s Mediterranean has seating for 52, it is limited to around 18 because of COVID-19 limitations. Nizam still puts in 85-90 hours a week at work because he truly loves what he’s doing.
“Our customers appreciate what we do, and I like to give them the best and make them feel like they’re eating in Lebanon with food like it’s prepared there,” he said. “People told us they didn’t come to this neighborhood in the past, but now they come from all over Central Texas, and from Houston, Tyler and Dallas-Fort Worth.
“A Star-Telegram writer enjoyed his meal so much that he went back and wrote an article on us. People who eat here always come back, like a man who was a former regular customer but had moved away a few years. He remembered D’s and came looking for us when he moved back. All he could say was, ‘I’m so happy you’re still here.’” ￼
D’s Mediterranean Grill
1503 Colcord Ave.
Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.