Camilya’s–Oklahoma City, OK

Camilya’s Mediterranean Cafe
10942 N. May Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 418-4141
Camilya's

Camilya’s


Camilya got this restaurant off to a very good start by serving fresh, home cooked style food in a small cafe style setting that did not make customers pay high prices. In 2010 the current owners took over the restaurant, continuing the same type of food that Camilya cooked (since that time some of the family members opened Jerusalem Restaurant in Edmond which is excellent as well and serves the same type of food).

Camilya’s is rather inconspicuous, being a small restaurant in a strip shopping center in the north part of Oklahoma City. Food is cooked on a grill in view of the dining room, and the small scale on which food is prepared is a main reason for its high quality. Even though there are less than a dozen tables in the dining room I have never seen it so full that people had to wait for a table. Those who do eat here, though, seem to appreciate the good quality of the food served in this true “family restaurant.”

Normally when a restaurant changes owners I have to start over in writing descriptions of the food, but in this case there have been few differences from before. The veggie sampler plate has different items than before, several new menu items have been added, and the plates have become more colorful so that I can now take more interesting photographs. I have upgraded the ratings of some of the dishes, but I do not think there are any that needed to be downgraded. I think the “new” Camilya’s is very much like the old one, only better. Technically the original Camilya’s was Syrian cuisine and now it is Jordanian/Palestinian, but I have a very hard time distinguishing the differences between them.

Salads
Several salads are available, served in both small and large portions. Small salads come with many of the dinners, and these can be upgraded for an extra charge. If I have a large enough appetite I think it is worth ordering the fatoosh or Greek salad.

Fatoosh salad

Fatoosh salad

The Fatoosh Salad was one of the freshest and best I have had anywhere. The portions of lettuce and other ingredients were not huge, but the quality was very good.

The Greek Salad came with a very good dressing, and the olives and feta were highlights of the salad.

House salad

House salad

Soups

Lentil soup

Lentil soup

Lentil Soup is apparently a new item that was added in 2010, and it was excellent. This was a home made soup made from yellow lentils, and with a generous amount of vegetables included. This was a smoother soup than others in the city, with the lentils being puréed to the point that round beans were not noticeable. I enjoyed the flavor, the texture, and the inexpensive price of the soup.

Kabobs

Tawook and keftah skewers

Combo dinner with tawook and keftah skewers

The chicken and beef skewers were every bit as good as I had expected, having been referred to Camilya’s in the first place by family members who have too limited a budget to waste it eating out on food that is not truly worthwhile. The Keftah Skewer was made with ground black angus beef seasoned with what is probably a family recipe. I thought it was well prepared, and had especially good spices.

The Tawook Skewer was made with flavorful chicken and similar spices as the keftah skewer. I have gone back and forth on different visits trying to decide whether the chicken or beef was better, but I can definitely say that both are good. I also fall on the side of ordering the chicken because the one here seems better to me than the ones at any other restaurant (while the beef at several restaurants is comparable).

Plates

Gyros

Gyros plate

I would rate the Gyros as one of the best items served at Camilya’s, and it has a flavor that is quite different from many of the small gyros restaurants and take-out places in the city. The meat was tender, flavorful, and definitely high quality. Gyros comes in a sandwich, or the Gyros Plate which comes with a salad.

The bed of Vermicelli Rice on the gyros plate and other dinners is excellent. Hashwa can be substituted for the rice, but most of the time I think the rice is just as satisfying.

Beef shawerma and chicken tawook

Beef shawerma and chicken tawook on the combo plate

Beef Shawerma is the “Mediterranean version of fajita,” according to the menu, and I also thought this was quite good. Made with tenderloin steak, tomatoes, and onions, it provides a different type of beef than the keftah skewer, but I thought the meat was of equal quality. The shawerma normally comes in a sandwich, but it can also be served on a platter if requested.

Sandwiches

Falafel sandwich

Falafel sandwich

Vegetarian items are usually the weak point of Middle Eastern restaurants, but it is not so at Camilya’s. The Falafel has been quite good, and I think this is one of the hardest vegetarian dishes to get right. The key to falafel seems to be preparing it fresh and not making it too greasy. Camilya’s hit the mark on both of these. I have tried the falafel on more than one visit, and it has always been moist with good spices. The pita was very good as well.

Lamb kabob sandwich

Lamb kabob sandwich

A Lamb Kabob Sandwich has recently been added to the menu, while a larger lamb shank dinner is also available. The sandwich is one of my favorites at Camilya’s, and the best feature is that this is one of the most inexpensive places in the city to order lamb.

Appetizers

Camilya's sampler

Camilya’s sampler with baba ghanouj, falafel, hummus, and grape leaves

Falafel is also served on Camilya’s Sampler plate, an appetizer combination plate containing four vegetarian items. The Hummus was very good, and I think has improved since Camilya served it. The Baba Ghanouj was less flavorful than the hummus, but this is true for me at just about all Middle Eastern restaurants. The Grape Leaves were also excellent.

A falafel platter is available from the Appetizers menu, and is probably too small of a portion to make a meal but can be combined with other appetizers for a filling dinner.

Tabouleh was one of the best vegetable items I have tasted, and as far as I am concerned would always make a good choice. I thought the tabouleh had a strong taste of olive oil, and all ingredients were fresh and good.

Spinach pies

Spinach pies

Spinach Pies are available on Camilya’s sampler, or they can be ordered separately. I was very impressed because the outer dough tasted fresh and did not seem as if it had been frozen (this is a common problem I find at other restaurants). The inside was excellent as well, and I really think this is the best place in Oklahoma City to get spinach pies.

Labaneh

Labaneh

Labaneh, a yogurt dish made with goat’s milk, has been pretty bland and boring many times I have tried it, but Camilya’s makes an extremely good version because of the olive oil dip along with the oregano, thyme, and sesame mix that gives it quite a zesty flavor. In fact, this makes an excellent alternative to any of the salads on the menu (and the labaneh also comes with its own salad).

Side Orders

Hashwa

Hashwa

The Hashwa rice cooked with black angus beef, pine nuts, and almonds makes an excellent dish by itself, or can be ordered as an upgrade to the rice on the dinner plates.

Mojaderah is a vegetarian version of hashwa, made with lentils and steamed rice. This started out as a special but is now on the menu.

Special Menu

Gyros omelette

Gyros omelette

Camilya’s has added a special menu of breakfast items, including the Gyros Omelette. The owners explained that some of the employees used to work at IHOP, so they started preparing omelettes to be served at Camilya’s.

Desserts

Baklava

Baklava

It is hard to resist the Baklava for dessert, since I think this is the best in the city (but other places make baklava that is close). Other more exotic desserts including layali lubnan and kunafa used to be listed on the menu but are no longer included (I am not sure if these are still available from time to time or by special order).

Additional Comments

The Hot Tea is a brewed masala tea that has had a very good flavor, and I think this type of tea goes perfectly with Middle Eastern food. For those who remember the special Middle Eastern style tea served in a pot (shown in the photo of the falafel sandwich), this is no longer served. I do like the masala tea, though.

I have seen Turkish coffee and strawberry banana juice on the menu, but the take-out menu (shown at the bottom of the page) does not list the drinks so I am not sure what is available at the moment.

Apart from the quality of the food, the thing that is impressive about Camilya’s is that it is really like entering a restaurant in the Middle East, with few if any compromises made to change the food for American tastes. In fact, because it seems to be more authentic than many restaurants I think this makes it better. Camilya’s has gyros (normally considered a Greek dish), but the meat is different here than other places, and they cook it in house. Even dishes that do not look as if they would be especially good turn out to be much better than I expected.

For many items Camilya’s is better than any other Middle Eastern restaurants I have tried in the city, but this is not true across the board. The previous cook at Camilya’s opened Jerusalem in Edmond, and I have to say that this is one restaurant that is comparable to Camilya’s in terms of the food. Other restaurants, such as Nunu’s, are better at certain items. I continue to be impressed, though, by the overall quality at Camilya’s.

Camilya’s has not had take home menus for a while so I am including the latest one I have.

I have conflicting information about the hours–recently they were open on Sunday but I am not sure if this is still the case (for a while they were open Sunday for lunch only).

I do not believe there is a charge for you to bring your own wine.


RATING: 26

Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Bring your own wine

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 20, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Tawook Skewer, Keftah Skewer, Gyros, Lamb Kabob, Fatoosh Salad, Greek Salad, Labaneh, Spinach Pie, Mojaderah, Hashwa, Baklava

Special Ratings
star 5 Tawook Skewer
star 5 Keftah Skewer
star 5 Beef Shawerma
star 5 Chicken Shawerma
star 5 Lamb Kabob
star 5 Hashwa
star 5 Mojaderah
star 5 Labaneh
star 5 Spinach Pie
star 5 Hummus
star 5 Grape Leaves
star 5 Lentil Soup
star 4 Falafel
star 4 Tabouleh
star 4 Cabbage Rolls
star 4 Baba Ghanouj
star 5 Fatoosh Salad
star 5 Greek Salad
star 5 Vermicelli Rice
star 5 Pita
star 5 Baklava

Menu (Aug. 2015):

 

Chibugan–Del City, OK

Chibugan Filipino Cuisine
4728 S.E. 29th St.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 595-2426

Chibugan

Chibugan in Del City


There have been many articles on the Internet about people’s opinion that Filipino cuisine is one of the best, yet there are extremely few restaurants in the United States in proportion to the number of Filipino people living here. I have watched both Bhing’s Cafe and Evelyn’s Asian Table close, and with both I was convinced that more people would like Filipino food if they tried it. Fortunately there is now another opportunity to try it at Chibugan in Del City (which I was first alerted about in 2016 but I was able to make my first visit in 2018).

I was encouraged when I saw the amount of business the restaurant is doing, and I think they made a wise business choice by locating near Tinker Air Force Base (military bases traditionally attract small mom and pop Asian restaurants nearby because many of the personnel have been to these countries and tried the food). It might seem as if this is a prime example of a niche cuisine that would not attract a large segment of Americans, but I come back to my statement that this will change once people try the food.

With the previous restaurants I visited the biggest hurdle was trying to figure out the menu. I mainly followed the suggestions of the owners and got good results, but I know that this will continue to be an issue with many people. Chibugan has what some people call a “streamlined” menu with additional daily specials posted on the wall, and you can see pictures of the items. Although I still had questions, the staff was very helpful in explaining everything.

Like any cuisine, Filipino food has a large number of styles of food, and at Chibugan you can get what you want from a light lunch to a very substantial meat dinner. The default for Filipino food is that it is not spicy, and mostly it is like other Asian food but with a few twists (for instance I tried one dish that had a large amount of celery).

My experience was that I asked questions about the dishes that looked interesting, and they explained it to the point that I was satisfied that I had made a good choice. I give ratings to restaurants based not only on my own experience, but also on what I think it will be for other people. I felt very comfortable that even those who have no experience with Filipino food will have a good idea about what they are ordering here.

The Food

Chicken rice soup

Chicken rice soup

With any order you get a complimentary Chicken and Rice Soup. This was a very delicious indication of how the rest of the meal would be.

Pansit bihon

Pansit bihon

I ordered two dishes with the idea that I could take some home and have somewhat of a variety of items to report. I turned out that these dishes really could not have been more different. The Pansit Bihon was a very light dish that I would say makes a very good lunch. It was a little like Chinese chow mein but it had a strong celery taste and the lime you put on top makes it taste very tropical. In any case I thought it was very good, and I happen to like this type of healthy but flavorful food.

Pork ribs adobo

Pork ribs adobo

At the opposite end of the scale was Pork Ribs Adobo which was a very substantial meat dish. It had much more flavor that I had expected, but even more surprising was the way the meat fell off the bones in a way that was just right. Much of the flavor came from the sauce and from the seasonings cooked into the meat. I thought this was a very good example of Asian slow cooked meats.

The dish is topped with Asian red chiles, but if you leave these alone the dish is not spicy.

All plates come with Lumpia on the side (the Southeast Asian version of an egg roll).

Also available are canned Philippine fruit drinks in a variety of flavors that I thought was a perfect touch with the meal.

In short, I was very happy with my two meals here (I took the pansit home for lunch the next day).

Previous Post from Mar. 23, 2016:

Chibugan Restaurant in Del City, OK (near Tinker Air Force Base in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area) will be open soon, and as far as I know will be the only Filipino restaurant in the metro.

Chibugan's interior

Chibugan’s interior

It looks as if it is almost ready to go, but they have not yet announced an opening date.  Those in the area, though, may want to keep a lookout for it.

Filipino decorations on the wall

Filipino decorations on the wall

Thanks very much to Arlene Clifton for providing the photos and for giving us a heads up that Filipino food will soon be available in the Oklahoma City area.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Filipino
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. & Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 17, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Pork Ribs Adobo, Pansit Bihon

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: N/A
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pork Ribs Adobo
star 5 Pansit Bihon
star 5 Chicken Soup

Travel By Taste–Warr Acres, OK

Travel By Taste
4818 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 787-2969
Travel By Taste

Travel By Taste


For some time I have had a love for Persian music and Persian cats, and Travel By Taste has convinced me that Persian food should be added to the list. The name “Travel By Taste” may be more than a little bit appropriate since few restaurants contribute as much to expanding the food experience in Oklahoma City as the Persian cuisine served here.

Travel by Taste’s “deli” style service makes it look very casual, and I was somewhat surprised by the “fine dining” experience I got from the food. Orders are taken at the cash register (but unlike Nunu’s and some other restaurants, you pay for the meal when you are finished eating). It is also not a “fine dining” restaurant in the sense that it closes at 8:00 P.M., so some may find this a bit too early to sit and enjoy a leisurely dinner (although I have felt no pressure to eat quickly and leave so that they could close up and go home). In spite of these constraints, though, Travel by Taste is really one of the places I go for a fine dining experience in OKC, where the food lives up to the expectation.

The fact that they serve Middle Eastern flavored hot tea is another factor that makes this restaurant one of my favorites. Food is brought to the table, and customers are served just as in any restaurant, but the only difference here is that you place your order at the cash register. I do enjoy browsing the market when I go to order and to pay, and I am sure this is by design.

The market

Patrons enter through the market, and the dining room is through the door on the left.

Travel by Taste serves “halal” meat in the “Specialty Dishes” section of the menu (these are equivalent to kosher meats). Meats include the lamb shish kabob, grilled chicken, kabobs, and ghormeh sabzi. Probably not surprisingly, these are among my favorite items at the restaurant. The rest of the menu is non-Persian and does not include halal meat, but I have found it to be very good as well.

Items from the “Regular Menu”

Falafel sandwich

Falafel sandwich

The non-Persian portion of the menu also has the less expensive items. One of the best items I have found is the Falafel Sandwich, which by itself makes a very substantial meal. The freshness, texture, and flavor of the falafel are its most notable features, and this is definitely one of the best in town. The bread was very fresh with a traditional pita flavor, but was large and thin like a wrap. I liked the fact that the bread did not fall apart when it was saturated by the sauce as is frequently the case with with this type of sandwich.

Hummus was another standout item from the “regular menu,” placing it in contention for being the best in OKC. The hummus and other appetizers here come in fairly large servings, and may be better shared than for just one person.

Persian salad

Persian salad

The Persian Salad had a dressing that for me was a little disappointing, but the salad itself was quite good. I really thought the Greek Salad was more enjoyable in terms of flavor, but the one I tried had only one olive that I could find and very little feta. These salads did not reach the point of being a “disappointment,” but I think they are better at other restaurants.

Shish Kabob (from the Regular Menu)

Shish kabob

Shish kabob

The Shish Kabob was not one of the restaurant’s “Specialty Dishes,” but I think it is probably one of their best items. This was made with filet mignon, and it was like eating steak in a high end steak house only with a flavor from being marinated that makes it better than the typical steak.

One feature that put the shish kabob among the top ones I have tried was the Saffron Rice served underneath the meat and vegetables. This was very fresh and delicious, and the rice was something I would enjoy eating by itself.

Lamb Kabob (“Specialty Dish”)
The Lamb Kabob is one of the restaurant’s “Specialty Dishes,” and I would say is equally as enjoyable as the beef version (although I would not say this about all the lamb dishes I have tried in various restaurants). Some people would like the lamb better, and I would say that both are good.

Grilled Chicken with Turkish Salsa

Grilled chicken with Turkish salsa

Grilled chicken with Turkish salsa

Grilled Chicken with Turkish Salsa has been my favorite item since I first tried it, but with the new menu in 2014 it is no longer served. The good news is that customers can still get the same thing by ordering two dishes: the chicken kabob and what is now called “Turkish salad” (formerly Turkish salsa). The bad news is that there is about a fifty percent higher price tag ordering it this way (but I think it comes with a larger serving).

The Chicken Kabob accomplishes a very hard feat by making the chicken as flavorful and tender as the beef. The seasoning is a major part of the meat’s appeal, and of course coming from the “halal” section of the menu, this is undoubtedly some of the best meat available.

The Turkish Salad is made with tomatoes, onion, parsley, pomegranate sauce, chile peppers, and walnuts for a taste that is a little bit like tabouli (but sweet with pomegranate and crunchy with walnuts). This was quite a unique combination that I have not found in other Middle Eastern restaurants.

Ghormeh Sabzi

Ghormeh sabzi

Ghormeh sabzi

Ghormeh Sabzi was one of the Specialties I was hesitant to try because I had a rather disappointing experience with it at another restaurant. Travel by Taste, though, knows how to do it right (at least it was right for my taste buds). The flavor and color seem to come mostly from shredded parsley, but Travel by Taste has mixed in enough kidney beans, dried lime, stewed beef, and green onions to give it quite a delicious flavor. Some of the other patrons, on seeing this dish being delivered to my table, have commented that it is one of their favorite dishes.

Gheimeh with Potatoes

Gheimeh with potatoes

Gheimeh with potatoes

Gheimeh with Potatoes is a mild dish with tomato sauce, covered with French fries. None of the items at Travel By Taste are spicy, but this dish is quite mild in terms of not having as many spices as some of the others. It does have a very good flavor, though.

Khoresh Bademjan

Khoresh bademjan

Khoresh bademjan

The Khoresh Bademjan, had been discontinued for a while because of not being ordered very often, but on a recent visit I was able to order it again. This is a beef and eggplant stew listed under “Specialty Dishes” that I thought was very flavorful. As with all of the dishes here, Travel By Taste does an excellent job with the sauces. I was informed that all of the Specialty Dishes have meat which is halal, and I thought the meat in this dish was excellent quality.

Desserts

Persian ice cream

Persian ice cream

Travel By Taste has a limited dessert menu, but the Persian Ice Cream was one item I had not seen elsewhere. This was home made ice cream with pistachios and rose water. Rose water is a prominent flavor in Iranian cuisine, and I think it is worth splurging a little bit to try this ice cream (normally in restaurants I go for cake or baked goods).

Overall Comments
So far almost everything I have tried has gone on the “best items” list, and I think this is truly a sign of a consistently excellent restaurant. Of course my view of the restaurant may be skewed because of ordering mainly the “Specialty Dishes” which are the most expensive items. Even so, this is one of the least expensive restaurants in town which I consider to have “fine dining” type of food. The falafel sandwich is certainly more casual than other dishes, though, and in some situations can be just as satisfying (and there are still many items from the menu I have not yet tried).

The Iranian music sometimes played over the speakers is very enjoyable, and the dining room is very comfortable. The back of the dining room looks like a place where people can sit around, enjoy a drink, and plug in a computer.

The “market” is very good for imported goods and some Middle Eastern style food produced in the United States. I particularly like the fresh fruit and nuts which can be purchased separately or combined to create your own trail mix.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Middle Eastern (Persian)
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun & Mon. (in 2017 I got information that it was open Sun. lunch, but I do not know if this is still the case)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Special Features: “Specialty Dishes” on the menu are halal

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 16, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ghormeh Sabzi, Shish Kabob, Lamb Kabob, Chicken Kabob, Turkish Salad, Gheimeh, Hummus, Saffron Rice, Persian Ice Cream, Fruit and Nut “Trail Mix” from the Market

Special Ratings
star 5 Shish Kabob (filet mignon)
star 5 Lamb Kabob
star 5 Chicken Kabob
star 5 Ghormeh Sabzi
star 4 Falafel Sandwich
star 5 Turkish Salad
star 4 Greek Salad
star 4 Persian Salad
star 5 Hummus
star 5 Saffron Rice
star 5 Persian Ice Cream