Walter Mencken 9:27 a.m., Feb. 27
Shell Gas Station = Gas and a car wash…and Persian food?
The Shell Gas Station at the corner of Leucadia Blvd. and El Camino Real offers gas and a full service car wash, as well as the usual gas station fare of snacks and fountain drinks. If it’s about lunchtime, it offers something more: Persian food. Skewers Grill, which has been at this location for seven years, sells primarily kebabs, rice, and salads. The whole set up is very low key: from the simple sign outside and above the counter to the bistro style tables surrounded by a Lotto machine and displays for Red Bull. There is nothing to indicate that the food served is authentic Persian food from the personal recipes of Mary Ghandy, a regular fixture at the counter and the owner’s mother.
I brought along a friend, who lives down the street from Skewers. She was amazed that she had never heard of this place and that it was located inside of a gas station. I chose a combination plate with a beef filet skewer, herb rice and Caesar salad for $10.50. My friend ordered the same, except with a chicken skewer and the mixed salad ($8.75). There were other diners, and an equal number of people waiting for their cars to be washed. Since I had eaten there before, Mrs. Ghandy came out to chat with us. We discovered that it isn’t so surprising that many people aren’t aware of Skewers Grill-they do not advertise and have relied on word of mouth for business.
Our food came out, not fast, but quickly enough for someone on an hour lunch. The presentation elicited an “Oh!” from both of us, due to the addition of freshly chopped herbs scattered over the food. Amazing how something so simple can delight the senses. The salads were fresh. My friend felt her salad was over-dressed, though still tasty. My Caesar was just right, though the croutons detracted from the over-all homemade appearance of the meal. Our meat skewers were tender and deliciously marinated. My beef was cooked just right- a little rare and easily cut with my plastic knife. The herb rice was a real treat. It’s made with basmati rice, which was fluffy and contained plenty of dried herbs. My friend and I kept trying to determine what other seasoning was used. She thought cardamom and I felt sure that it was cinnamon. We couldn’t get an answer from Mrs. Ghandy, but my lunch companion agreed with me that it was probably cinnamon.
In addition to the meat kebabs, there was also a marinated vegetable skewer as an option. They also have hummus, tabbouleh and wraps. Interestingly enough, you would have to read the available paper menu to find out that the menu is authentic Persian food. The menu also gives a catering price list. The counter is open Monday-Saturday, from 11:00a.m.-7p.m.
My friend, who lives down the street, took a menu for future take-out nights. And I thought about how this is a really great way to combine a fill-up, car wash and tasty lunch in one stop!
Skewers Grill in the Shell Gas Station is located at 1060 El Camino Real in Encinitas 760-479-0803
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