My heart sinks a little every time a hummus that's not Tusk's crosses my lips. The spreads served in the restaurant's milk opal dining room have ruined me for those made by anyone else. But the Mediterranean eatery is much more than a chickpea palace—though if that's all that was served, I'd be perfectly content to eat the swirling beige dip by the bucketful. The second kitchen managed by Ava Gene's Joshua McFadden and Luke Dirks is also creating beautiful, light dishes built primarily on fresh vegetables, fruits and grains, though protein does play a supporting role.
But back to that hummus—there are two options, so try both in the half-and-half ($19) that comes with flatbread. More velvet than silk, and substantial, not airy, the spread is sprinkled with heady spices like tehina, paprika, cumin and coriander. A small mountain of whole chickpeas rises from the center of the dish. You can also get them in oversized fries ($9); the toasted brown Jenga-shaped pieces seasoned with garlic dissolve on the tongue. Though if you've had your fill of garbanzo beans with the hummus, the marinated feta cubes ($7) are an equally melty bite, and flaxseed crackers provide a satisfying accompanying crunch. To fulfill any meat cravings, a skewer or two is all it'll take. Chicken pieces ($6) marinated in yogurt are drizzled in a piney, herbaceous green sauce, while the ground lamb and pork ($6) is earthy and stands up to the paprika. Then again, you might just circle back to the hummus.
Pro tip: It's all too easy to rack up a big bill because many of the items aren't expensive on their own, and you can eventually lose sight of the running tab. Keep in mind that there's a chef's choice meal for $60 a person—you'll probably get away cheaper that way.