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Suddenly got this good idea about what to do on New Year's.

Was up at 8th and C downtown last night, heading for Broadway and buses.

Passed this Middle Eastern kinda eatery-nightclub. Saw families in there eating, kids playing around, a couple of tables of guys with shishas, and in the middle, a big stage.

Hmm. Belly-dancing, I wonder?

It’s Haji Baba’s (801 C Street, downtown, 619-696-0038).

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Head inside. Figure I’ll get some kebab to take home to the beautiful Carla. It’s big, with a glass-enclosed patio outside, too.

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So, it looks kinda empty, even though there are quite a few tables filled. I go down toward the bar area. Sit at one of the heavy wooden tables.

The “Haji Baba” sign above the stage...

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...gets me thinking. Hmm. “Haji” is someone who has been to the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, right?

“It has really come to mean like a term of endearment for ‘older dad,’ older gentleman,” says Raji, who has come up with menus. He’s from Jordan. Took over this place three years ago. Used to be “Al Bustan.”

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Raji, nephew and nieces, Rami (8), Salina () — they're twins — and Christina (7)*

I check the menus. Dang. Should have come at lunch. They have, like, $3.95 baba ghanouj, $6.95 gyros sandwiches with fries, rice or salad, plus a soft drink.

Or beef shawarama, same price.

Now, around 8.30 p.m. , you can add a dollar to most things.

But I got paid today. Wallet’s feeling a little frisky. So I ask for a beef shawarma with rice ($7.95) and a Haji burger with fries ($8.95). Raji says they both have New Zealand lamb mixed in with the beef. Cool.

And when Raji tells me they crush their garbanzo beans on the spot and mix with tahini sauce and sesame seeds and lemon and olive oil every day, I can’t resist ordering their hummus plate ($4.95) for while I’m waiting.

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I love dipping the pita bread in. This definitely has flavor. And, well, it just looks so good.

And to help that go down, I ask for water, and then — what the heck — a little cup of Arabic or Turkish coffee. Raji says it’s “blond coffee and dark coffee mixed in together with cardamom.” I ask for it sweet.

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So-oo delish.

The food?

I loved the shawarma...like a wrap.

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The meat does taste lamby...saffron, too, I’m guessing. There’s a sweet thing going on there.

Carla’s burger has it as well. She has the fries.

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Me, I’m glad I took the rice. Basmati. Yellow. Little strings in there. Raji says it’s angel-hair pasta, mixed in for flavor.

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All I need is another lil cup of that Arabic coffee.

Oh, yeah, and New Year’s Eve? They have all sorts of music planned, and lots of belly-dancing.

Only rub? It’s a special price for the whole night: $65. But that includes food, dancing, favors.

Guess I’ll have to see how frisky my wallet feels come Saturday nite.

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