Florida Times Union
These days, it seems like a lot of restaurants that specialize in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean fare want to sell you a lot more than just a plated meal. While hookah pipes and belly dancers may add to an establishment’s ambience, food quality is not always what the proprietors use to get you there.
That’s why it’s refreshing to find places that stick to the quality of their food to attract a following. And so it goes with Café Kabob, a Baymeadows Road storefront that opened in late March in the spot of the former Bull’s Bar-B-Q, behind McDonald’s.
The menu is decidedly Persian, or present-day Iranian. It’s rich with salads, stews, lunchtime sandwiches and paninis, and its namesake kabobs. You can order them a la carte ($4-$11), as entrees with basmati rice and a grilled tomato ($11-$16) or in combo plates if you’re into mixing and matching your proteins ($15-$28).
My well-traveled review buddy and I arrived for an early Friday night dinner and found a neat, petite and sparsely populated dining room of eight tables. It didn’t remain so for long.
The owner, Kaveh Niakan, greeted us warmly and sensed our need for menu guidance. He offered us tapas-sized sample plates to get us started. We selected the Hummus Platter ($4), Cucumber Kim Chi ($3) and the Persian-Style Pickles ($2). The hummus was thick and creamy with zesty lemon and garlic flavors and paired well with the flatbread, although it’s so thin you have to roll it up to make a dent in the hummus. The Kim Chi, a Korean menu outlier that piqued our curiosity, was red and tangy with a medium-spicy bite. The pickles? These were much less tangy and crunchy than your kosher dill variety, but a more substantial dipper for the hummus for sure.
I selected the signature combo entree, the Chelo Kabob Sultani ($18), featuring one skewer of barg (filet mignon) with a substitution of the joojeh (chicken breast) for the standard koobideh (ground beef). The more-than-a-mouthful slices of barg were exceptionally tender and juicy and easily were the high point of my visit. The saffron-marinated joojeh chunks were only slightly less tender than the barg but delicious all the same, served over thin flatbread.
My friend tried the Chelo Kabob Koobideh ($11), which features two 5-ounce ground beef skewers. The beef flavor by itself was satisfying, but like a plain hamburger at the place next door, it welcomes embellishment.
To do that, Café Kabob provides with all dinner entrees a table dish of kabob dressings, including mixed greens, sliced white onion and goat cheese. You also get a shaker of sumac to season your kabobs and/or rice.
You won’t find desserts or alcoholic beverages here. Kaveh told us he will soon build a display case in the dining room to feature sweet treats.
Service was personable and friendly throughout our visit, with our host offering in-depth descriptions of menu options to make us feel comfortable with our choices. Most of those choices are good values: you get a lot of food for your money here.
Café Kabob’s dining room might not win prizes for its ambience. But for no-nonsense, flavorful and authentic Persian cuisine for a very reasonable tab, it hits the spot in Baymeadows.