by Ian McNulty
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and for the past few weeks it might even have looked like a mock up for the elaborate “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” set just around the corner. But in fact, the new business near the corner of Common Street and University Place is a combination Middle Eastern café and convenience store that is serving inexpensive and impressively well-composed dishes on a 24/7 schedule.
Cleo’s Cuisine & Convenience (165 University Pl., 504-522-4504) opened recently in the ground floor of a parking garage. Just beyond the grocery shelves, there’s a small seating area and an open kitchen preparing an extensive list of Middle Eastern standards, from fried haloumi cheese to gyro sandwiches to generous kebab combo platters. Falafel arrived as large, crusty bulbs with green, parsley-laced interiors and the hummus was garnished with a bright-red dollop of garlicky hot sauce.
Cleo’s also serves a small menu of American-style breakfast dishes, with smoked beef or turkey fashioned into sausage and bacon to replace the usual pork. And there’s the “yummy Egyptian breakfast,” a $6 platter of sesame falafel, mashed fava beans, sliced tomato and cucumber, pickled eggplant and pita bread. Cleo’s serves Egyptian tea and Turkish coffee along with other soft drinks.
Aubrey and Tarek Madkour opened Cleo’s in May. Tarek hails from Egypt, where he worked in hotel management before joining the New Orleans hospitality industry. It’s the couple’s first restaurant venture, and Aubrey says they picked the 24/7 convenience store/café format in order to cater to more needs in the changing CBD.
“There are more people living downtown now and one thing we heard is that they wanted more places for breakfast,” she says.
Cleo’s Cuisine & Convenience
165 University Pl., (504) 522-4504