2479 Broadway, Golden Hill
We exited the 94 at G Street and drove up to our house in Golden Hill, cranky after a nine-hour drive from the Bay Area, four hours of which had been spent in gridlocked traffic from West Los Angeles all the way to San Diego. After three weeks camping in the redwoods north of San Francisco, we were shell-shocked to be in the city again — and not a little hungry. It was with great anticipation that we noticed the newly opened Kabob House at the corner of Broadway and 25th Street, a short distance from our home.
Kabob House is in an unassuming mini-mall, next to a $5 Tasty Pizza and a 7-Eleven; thus, its exterior is not a thing of beauty — neither is the interior, with Formica-topped tables and metal chairs — but the cool mural, the funky Middle Eastern music, and the friendliness of the staff is inviting. (The family who owns this place also runs the Jaroco liquor store up the street at 25th and B.) You order at the counter and can watch your meal cook on an open grill. Everything is made to order from fresh, homemade ingredients.
The restaurant is as unpretentious as its clientele — taxi drivers stopping off between fares, dads picking up dinner for the family, and hipsters chowing down before a night on the town. Though the café has only been open a month, they’ve had a steady stream of customers both new and repeat. There are taco stands and pizza places in Golden Hill, but newer places can be too expensive for the area’s large working-class population. Kabob House has healthy — even vegetarian — options that don’t compromise people’s pocketbooks.
And healthy, it is. Of the Grilled Chicken or Beef Kabob Plates ($7.99 with two sides), the Falafel Sandwich ($4.99), and the salads (Greek, Mediterranean, or Fattoush $5.99), the only thing deep-fried is the falafel. The rest of the menu features vegetable-based dishes, legumes, and grilled meats. These taste every bit as good as carnitas burritos or pizza but won’t clog the arteries anywhere near as much.
Though not quite as substantial and varied as Mama’s Bakery in North Park (reviewed here last year), the dishes we ordered were satisfying. My husband’s Falafel Sandwich was composed of a halved pita stuffed with shredded romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced red onions, and four large falafel balls. A lemony tahini sauce drizzled across the top added moisture to the crisp, garbanzo-based cakes. Each falafel is hand-formed and fried to order, unlike at some places where they’re made in advance and then warmed in a microwave. This is key to a good falafel: you want the insides moist rather than brick-like.
I ordered the Combination Plate with a chicken kebab and lamb chunks, accompanied by hummus and tabbouleh (well priced at $9.99). The meat in the kebabs (with the exception of the lamb, grilled on skewers in whole chunks) is ground and spiced — reminiscent of Persian kabab koobidehs. My two chicken kebabs had been formed into strips, threaded on skewers, and perfectly grilled. They were juicy, redolent of garlic, parsley, and lemon, and they went well with the saffron rice (you can also opt for couscous).
The real standout, however, was the marinated lamb chunks. Tender and savory, the meat’s citrus-and-garlic marinade made this dish sing. The accompanying yogurt-based herb sauce balanced the tang of citrus and emphasized the rich meat. After struggling to cut it with my plastic fork and knife, I gave up and ate with my fingers instead, letting the juice drip down my chin.
Completing the dish were a garlicky hummus and a vibrant, well-dressed tabbouleh. The accompanying pita makes a fine vehicle for mixing everything together — a kind of Middle Eastern taco.
Less successful was the Fattoush Salad ($5.99). It was underdressed, and though the sautéed pita chips were crisp and salty (not soggy, as in many fattoushes) and the romaine lettuce was fresh and dark green, there wasn’t enough acid in the dressing, resulting in a lack of flavor and depth. It also would have been better with kalamata olives rather than unpitted black olives.
All in all, Kabob House is a nice addition to Golden Hill, reflective of the changing tapestry of residents in this neighborhood. After three weeks of eating canned turkey chili and Beanie Weenies off a camp stove, a juicy char of grilled lamb really hit the spot.