Dhafer’s Mediterranean Steakhouse

Dhafer’s Mediterranean Steakhouse

117 S. Locust, Dexter

For most of my life, if someone would tell me they were eating in Dexter my mind instantly wondered if it was Hickory Log or Dexter BBQ. These two restaurants feature the iconic flavors of hickory-smoked barbeque that made dry-rub famous in these parts, earning their reputations as the very best.

But now, the mention of Dexter has a Pavolovian effect on my pallet after one meal at Dhafer’s Mediterranean Steakhouse.

After several days of being in downtown Dexter; enjoying getting to know the owners of the local businesses and interviewing the city administrator, chamber director, college director, I stopped at Dhafer’s for dinner. In one meal, this restaurant’s personality, charm and cuisine sent it soaring to the top of my list of best places to eat in Southeast Missouri.

Steak & Lobster

Steak & Lobster

Dhafer is from Iraq and spent three years in a Saudi refugee camp from 1991 to 1994. Many of his cooking skills came as he prepared meals for other friends and families in the camp.

In 1994, he came to the United States. His first job at Marriott-West in St Louis was a pivotal one; the chef took him under his wing and transformed him from dishwasher to sous chef. From there, he worked as executive sous chef at several casinos and his culinary skills sharpened even further.

From 2003 until 2011, he was employed by U.S. Special Forces and worked a short stint with the U.S. Embassy for Bagdad. During the last two of those years, Dhafer’s wife, Melissa, set aside as much money as possible each month to pay for restoration and remodeling of a building they had purchased in downtown Dexter.

Dexter was a very good location for their restaurant plans because Melissa grandmother was from the area.

Dhafer proudly looked around and said, “It looked nothing like this. Melissa did all of this work while I was in Iraq.”

When he returned in 2011, Dhafer’s Mediterranean Steakhouse opened for business.

Dhafer’s menu is laid out very simply and as I opened it the Bruschetta jumped off the appetizer’s page and onto my table. Dhafer uses vine-ripened grape tomatoes with fresh basil, garlic and olive oil. The Bruschetta is served on toasted baguette slices.

The first thing you notice about the food is how fresh it tastes. Not just the produce, but everything tastes as though it was prepared right that second for you.

“I buy it all fresh; the fish, the certified Angus beef as well as the vegetables. They are all prepared fresh.”

I ordered both the steak and lobster and the sea bass for entrees. I couldn’t resist ordering the creme brulee and Melissa’s amazing pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

The steak was a thick, lean sirloin cooked medium; it was tender and full of flavor. Though the server asked if steak sauce was needed, salt wasn’t even needed. It was seasoned perfectly and tasted amazing. Simply, amazing.

The lobster was served above-shell; it was delicate and precisely the flavor one expects when they order lobster.

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

One of the great surprises of the entrée was actually the green beans and roasted red potatoes. My words won’t do them justice. They can’t. Just go…and order them.

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After graduating from Mizzou with Computer and Electrical Engineering degrees in 1985, Brian Becker spent a decade singing Christian Rock and being a labeled artist with Benson Music Group of Nashville. In 1995, he and several investors started the area's first Internet Service called PBMO.net and by 2000 the company was serviing Internet access in over 50 communities throughout Southeast Missouri as SEMO.net.