Has anyone notice a pattern? Is it just me? Or does the Metro DC region, Maryland suburbs in particular, have some great little no-frills eateries? Downtown DC has its share of off-the-beaten-track places with some wonderful food, no doubt, but they aren’t halal. It seems that if on a whim you pull your car into some little mall you’re going to find an unlikely halal spot tucked next to some dry cleaner or electronics store. And chances are there will be some unexpected, thoroughly enjoyable cooking going on. Case in point, Kabobelicious on New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring.
Now, a name like Kabobelicious already gets your hopes up. You walk in and the walls are a cool, deep Mediterranean blue punched up with booths and tables surrounded with saffron-yellow walls. Order at the counter and get your first whiff of yummy. The kabobs are sizzling on the grill, a hand-stretched naan just came out of the oven, and lazy curls of steam rise from a pot of Moroccan harira soup.
The soup is a Moroccan tradition, most often served during Ramadhan at iftar. It’s usually made with meat of some sort, but Kabobelicious has a vegetarian version with potatoes, chick peas, lentils, a little carrot, and a curious type of pasta shaped like little balls reminiscent of tapioca pearls or barley, all in a light broth with a hint of tomato. It works well as an appetizer to get your taste buds prepped for the flavors to come.
A filling lunch to try is the Merguez kabob sandwich. It’s actually a gyro which should really just be renamed “gyrolicious”. It has the nerve to be stuffed with four or five individual little grilled lamb sausages, which look all mild and gentle. Don’t be deceived, it has enough hot spiciness to catch your tongue off guard, but the right balance of shredded romaine, chopped tomato, hummus and garlic sauce to keep your mouth from getting all in an uproar. A more traditional sandwich is the classic falafel. You might have to wait a bit for it because each falafel ball is freshly handmade, fried to a nice crunchiness on the outside, and snuggled into a bed of chopped romaine, cucumber, and tomato inside more of that homemade naan before being drizzled with tahini sauce.
Kabobelicious has more to offer than lunch fare and will surprise you with a fish kabob platter that looks like it came from a different restaurant. Order a fish kabob at most places and you’ll probably get salmon. Chef Larbi Bouiachia shows off his skills with a swordfish kabob, off the skewer and paired with a fragrant and filling ratatouille thick with eggplant, carrot, yellow squash and red onions, and a little mesa of fluffy saffron rice. It’s a beautiful plate of food arranged to highlight the succulent, well-seasoned fish. Subhanallah. Don’t pass it up.
Br. Errazi Belmihoub and his partner Abdella Battau started the place 5 months ago to bring a bit of Algeria to the region’s many cultural pots, their menu a selection of offerings from North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. They bring those addictive little lemony grape leaves wrapped around flavorful arborio rice, and creamy hummus offset by dark, salty calabata olives. Couscous done as a salad with olive oil and lemon is a wonderfully light and refreshing meal disguised as an appetizer all chock-full of chopped cucumbers, red onions, chick peas, diced tomato, and finished with crumbled feta cheese strewn across the top.
This is the kind of food that makes these little restaurants like Kabobelicious havens for foodies. The portions aren’t super-sized, or sitting around all day under hot lights. Just simple ingredients prepared well, not processed, but kept “close to the hand”, and true to their roots.
Kabobelicious 13436 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 301-384-3784 Open daily 11 am-9pm