12128 Woodside Avenue, Lakeside
“99.99% of our customers love our food,” says the blurb. “It is known that Lakeside and Santee have many kinds of restaurants…but there was a shortage of Mediterranean (Greek) food.”
This is from Lake Lindo Grill on the prairie of Woodside Avenue. It’s a low building with long picnic tables in its forecourt.
“Any good?” I ask this lanky guy eating kabob with his girl. “Awesome, dude,” he says. “You get a lot.”
Inside walls are French blue, white, and brick red. I notice the menu has text on the back in Arabic, Russian, and is that Turkish?
“I am from Afghanistan,” says the owner, Jan Sidiqi. “When I had to leave, and Russia accepted me, I got there through Turkey.”
The menu is a combo of kabobs, gyro sandwiches (around $6), wraps ($5 for chicken, $7 for lamb), and combination platters with basmati rice, salad, and tandoori bread for $10 (chicken) $12 (lamb and chicken), and $14 (lamb). And there are sides that are a good deal. Like, you can get a skewer of charbroiled chicken breast for $2.99.
“Would you like tea? I make it. It’s organic. Hot or iced.”
I go for the hot, and it comes steaming greeny-gold in a glass cup.
Then, wow. He brings out this plate with finger-sized samples, seven of them. “This is my free sampler to help you decide,” says Jan. It has chicken kabob, lamb, meatball, yellow curried chicken, grilled chicken, chicken korma sautéed in a brown sauce and sabzi korma, and lamb sautéed with spinach in a dark sauce. The curried chicken and the two kormas are scrumptious.
I end up with a large lamb platter ($8.99). And it is large. Has the basmati rice, bread, salad, and multi chunks of lamb. “In Kabul it would come on the skewer,” he says. “Here, I can’t, for legal reasons.”
You get a big grilled tomato and chunk of grilled onion as well, plus mung beans mixed in with the rice. Plus a tub of green chutney to put with the meat, and the salad has tzatziki cucumber sauce with it. A heckuva combo. This guy is really trying.
Turns out Jan is a physician. A pediatrician. “But my qualifications don’t transfer,” he says, “so I started this.”
Why did he leave Afghanistan? “Taliban,” he says. “Strange people. They want to take us back 1400 years. I was in the hospital when they came. I was tending to a young girl. They said ‘Why are you caring for a female? That is not permitted. Next time we see you doing this we will drop you from this window.’ It was on the third floor. Things became too dangerous.”
So here is this physician, this doctor, bringing Mediterranean food to Lakeside, serving me. How can you not admire his guts and resilience, to start over like this?
Such a loss for Afghanistan. Such a gain for Lakeside.