25-12 Steinway Street, Astoria, NY
Kebab Cafe is definitely an Astoria classic dining experience. The hubster and I went there on our third date and we routinely go back to visit because it truly is a unique experience. This tiny (20 seater?) restaurant is run by Ali, the local Egyptian chef who has been running this tiny culinary extravaganza for almost 20 years. Ali knows everyone and everyone knows Ali. The restaurant relies on the fact that the locals will stop in and dine on whatever Ali has fresh that day.
Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern of Travel Channel fame both dined here and did a on Kebab Cafe on No Reservations and it has definitely helped business along……you will definitely not get a seat unless you go on an off night.
We recently ventured here with 10 friends to try a melange of interesting foods. Ali is known for his meat preparation. As you sit in the tiny cramped seats, the walls looming in on you decorated with all sorts of eccentric art, Ali shouts at you what it is he has to serve that evening.
I strongly recommend the appetizer plate which has delicious hummus, babaganoush and fresh fried falafel. It is topped with fried mustard greens which are crazily delicious. Depending on Ali’s mood (he can sometimes be strangely surly, although this definitely seems to fit with this experience) he will walk you through the rest of his spontaneous menu. Plan on lots of lamb dishes, some rabbit, some fish, and plenty of offal.
We tried brains and cheeks, both of which were amazing! The brains were lightly breaded and fried. They were spongy and tasty. The cheeks were cooked with onion in a small pan. Ali brought them over to the table with raw egg on top. The cheeks were so hot that the egg cooked as he stirred it. Really, if you’re into this sort of thing (offal, I mean) this is the best place to have it. It is guaranteed to be fresh and you will get a kick out of watching him cook in a kitchen approximately five feet long with one stove top. It’s incredible.
We ordered platters of lamb and rabbit that were served with lots of sauteed vegetables. The meat was tender and covered in a remarkable pomegranate sauce. The rabbit was also delicious, slightly crispy on the outside and served with plenty of sauteed greens on the side.
I really would not recommend going here with such a large group…..we had some difficulty maneuvering the space. This is best as a date spot or with two couples, tops.
Overall, it is an incredible experience that every die hard foodie needs to try. Another great perk is that it is BYO…..which definitely helps reduce the prices – which are typical for Astoria.