OPINION: Babylon offers authentic oasis of Middle Eastern cuisine

Chris DiMeo

Saudi Arabia reigns supreme of WKU’s international student population in terms of numbers , with its 578 students totaling more than those of the other nine countries that make up the top 10 countries represented in WKU’s international student body. Oman and Iran also keep it company in the top ten, keeping the Middle East very well represented on the Hill.

However, I continue to be surprised when I hear fellow students express their disappointment at the lack of availability of authentic Middle Eastern food near the university. Thankfully, I can now reassure them that there is an oasis of authentic, affordable and exquisitely delicious Middle Eastern cuisine called Babylon Restaurant.

Situated across from an international market on Russellville Road, Babylon is relatively close to campus, about an 8 minute drive with traffic. Its exterior is small and unassuming, to the point where it hardly looks like a restaurant, but on the inside it is shimmering with ornate golden decorations.

The staff at Babylon are incredibly warm and friendly and speak both Arabic and English. While it is possible to have a fully enjoyable experience at Babylon while only speaking English, the majority of the restaurant’s customers are Arabic speakers, and so, having at least a rudimentary knowledge of Arabic offers the possibility of adding a whole new level of interest to your experience.

The only glaring downside that stuck with me from my meal at Babylon was the wait time. After ordering in a quick thirty seconds, getting our own drinks from the fridge beside the ordering window and receiving our fresh bread and hummus hardly three minutes after that, my party and I were more than surprised when we had to spend just barely shy of thirty minutes picking on pita in the empty restaurant as we waited for the rest of our food to come. When the food did come, it was delicious, but we were left debating whether it was worth the laboriously long wait.

As for the menu itself, there are only about eight entrée items and as many smaller items that serve as appetizers or sides, such as the hummus and pita bread. I personally found the uniquely small menu size as a positive because it allowed the chef to avoid overwhelm- ing the customer with an excess of op- tions and focus on strengthening the few items on the menu.

While I am quick to praise the magnificently beautiful atmosphere of Babylon, nothing is more beautiful

than the food itself. Not only rich in taste, every dish was also richly colorful, a mix of vibrant spices, herbs, oils and grains that somehow managed to resemble an edible artist’s palette. Particularly with dishes like the hummus and the falafel that mixed several ingredients to be scooped up together, so many distinct flavors and textures that could stand on their own were blended together in a way that they were all still present, but never overpowering.

The best part of Babylon’s menu, though, is undoubtedly the fact it is one of only a few places to get truly authentic Middle Eastern food near WKU’s campus. So, whether you are an international student from the Middle East looking for a taste of home or you are simply brave enough to expand your culinary horizons in a delicious way, Babylon Restaurant is worth a visit!