Catherine Spearnak 3:30 p.m., March 6
Kebab shops seem to be springing up all over the place, which is a nice trend. One of the most recent arrivals to the Middle Eastern take-out scene, Kebab King on University Avenue, is in the building recently vacated by Jack's BBQ. For whatever reason, the "BBQ" insignia survived the remodel, thus creating a sort of culinary palimpsest that suggests a Greco-Memphis fusion that will probably never come to be in this world.
The decor is cheerful, orange, and bright. Everything is still shiny and new and inspiringly polished. It indicates that there's an ambitious person somewhere in the picture trying his hand in a competitive spot like this. The place has been put together to be a bit more welcoming than the big, square, concrete-and-tile building might at first suggest.
Insignia from the ubiquitous Kronos foods company reassure guests and passersby that they're in familiar territory, at least as far as gyros are concerned.
The kebabs are a bit unusual. Available with lamb or chicken that's been cooked on a spit and sliced off to order, the namesake sandwiches can come on the expected pita bread or — and here's where things get odd — on a grilled flour tortilla.
The tortilla option might seem a little awkward at first, but it proves to be a clever variation on the theme. A Rohdes Kebab ($5.49) arrives dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and feta cheese. It also includes a spiced tomato sauce that's a bit unfamiliar on a kebab such as this. The sauce has a richly concentrated tomato flavor that resembles pizza sauce. This detail is bothersome, as it doesn't really fit the flavor of the meat and fresh greenery. On a more positive note, the sandwich is enormous and makes a filling meal.
Kebab King offers burgers and shawarma sandwiches as well, all of which can be augmented as "combos" for an additional $2. This adds fries and a fountain drink and pushes the calorie content into borderline dangerous realms, which is A-OK if you're completely starving. The man behind the counter was kind enough to substitute a small order of the shiraz salad for the fries. It was delightful, featuring tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and parsley in a piquant marinade.
Big Plus: Kebab King sells beer! They have Karl on draft ($3.99/glass or $8.99 for a 49 oz. pitcher) and a bunch of stuff in bottles. Sitting around sipping on a Mythos Lager and chewing on a kebab might be a welcome respite from burritos and Coronas.
1290 E. University Avenue
Fri & Sat 11am-11pm