La Cocina Mediterránea serves tasty falafels, shawarma from within a liquor store

A beef shawarma plate with yellow rice and fattoush salad at La Cocina Mediterránea.
(Gabriel San Román )
Share via

Lunch rush at La Cocina Mediterránea in Buena Park sounded a bit different than at other restaurants.


A group of construction workers in orange reflective vests walked into Buena Liquor Market, which shares space with the restaurant’s kitchen, triggering its doorbell before loading up on chips and beer.

Ding, ding!

Next to the liquor store’s cashier, a customer hit a call bell twice in summoning La Cocina Mediterránea’s cook to bring out his to-go order.


Amid the din of dings, La Cocina Mediterránea stood out as one of the unlikeliest places to munch on flavorful falafels and savory shawarma in Orange County.

“Our chef’s food is good!” said Amer Nackoud, who owns the liquor mart and restaurant. “The idea from the onset was to make a fusion of Middle Eastern and Mexican food.”

A husband-and-wife duo split responsibilities between the liquor store and kitchen, respectively.

A patron orders shawarma for the first time at La Cocina Mediterránea.
A patron orders shawarma for the first time at La Cocina Mediterránea in Buena Park, which shares space with Buena Liquor Market.
(Gabriel San Román)

In general, eateries paired with liquor stores are a rarity in the county.

Station Liquor and Deli in Santa Ana boasts a taco counter and does grilled chicken pop-ups on weekends. There are also Texas-style barbecue pop-ups behind Minute King Market in Newport Beach when the deli isn’t already busy making sandwiches.

But La Cocina Mediterránea is true hidden gem where a full kitchen meets a classic convenience store, at least for now as Nackoud is readying remodeling plans.

“The food we have is just a sample of what we’re going to have,” he said. “We’re going to make it a sit-down restaurant called Mama Eve’s Mediterranean Cuisine with a full menu. Right now, it’s more of a to-go menu.”

Nackoud bought the property in late 2021 when the deli market was known as BP Grill and served teriyaki bowls, burgers and burritos.

Remodeling plans will separate the liquor market from the restaurant in the future
(Gabriel San Román)

The restaurant’s new name in Spanish, which means “The Mediterranean Kitchen,” translates well for the Mexican working class neighborhood that surrounds it.

La Cocina Mediterránea carried over much of the old staples from BP Grill, but the heart of its menu is Mediterranean, which focuses on falafels, shawarma and salads.

Patrons can order the first two as tacos, wraps or bowls.

Beef shawarma strips come tender, slightly fatty and are delectably seasoned while the chicken shawarma is juicy to the bite.

A six-piece falafel order to go from La Cocina Mediterránea.
(Gabriel San Román)

La Cocina Mediterránea’s falafels offer a good crunch and an even better taste. They can be ordered with tacos, bowls and wraps or a la carte from six- to 24-piece options.

The bowls are served more like plates with a side of zesty fattoush salad sans pita chips to pair with a heaping of fluffy yellow basmati rice.

Bound by a thin but sturdy pita bread toasted on both sides, the wraps are stuffed with sour Lebanese pickle strips, French fries, pungent garlic sauce and a filing of choice inside.

La Cocina Mediterránea also serves hummus, which can be ordered three types of ways, including spicy and loaded with beef shawarma. A trio of salads — tabouleh, Greek, sumac — rounds out its offerings.

But the best deal on the menu comes by way of its platter tray.

The “sampler” packs beef, chicken and falafel wraps cut in half to go along with fries, pickles, chilies and an assortment of house sauces. The tray is great for gatherings or for feeding four to five people for $30 in these inflationary times.

For first timers at La Cocina Mediterránea, patrons order at the restaurant counter but pay at the liquor store cashier right next to it.

There’s even a dining patio outside facing Knott Avenue to sit down and grub.

Concept designs for the remodeled and renamed Mama Eve's Mediterranean Cuisine
Concept designs for the remodeled and renamed Mama Eve’s Mediterranean Cuisine
(Courtesty Amer Nackoud)

But Nackoud is looking toward the future with plans to separate the two businesses with a wall and enhance the customer’s overall experience. In a swap, the liquor mart would face Knott Avenue while Mama Eve’s would offer sit-down and patio dining away from the main street.

“Hopefully, everything will be done before the end of this year,” he said. “Construction is fast. Working with the city always takes time.”

Nackoud is also eager to remodel the kitchen and put a new falafel machine and shawarma spits to use.

For now, being paired with a liquor store gives La Cocina Mediterránea a distinct convenience in offering a drink menu more expansive than most.

Whether a bottle of Topo Chico, Coke or Gatorade, just pay for a drink off the shelf and wash down all the good food, accordingly!