I’ve written about him before, but I only know him as Abraham. First at Aladdin’s (from the late 90s to the late aughts). Then, until just recently, at Mediterranean Market on Meadow with partner Mustafa. Now, he’s flying solo in Carytown. Actually, in addition to his years of Middle Eastern food experience, Abraham’s got his three teenage sons, if he can wrangle them into helping out. I’m hoping Carytown will welcome this new restaurant into the fold, cuz it’s been a long time in the making. After waiting on the city for over two months for permits, it’s go time for Döner Kebab at 3459 Cary St.
One constant at all of Abraham’s establishments is his humble pride in his food. The menu items are familiar and enticing, considering the lack of Middle Eastern cuisine in Carytown. But it’s his attention to detail that will bring you back. The sumac in the spinach pies. The very slight rosewater in the honeyed kanafeh. And then there’s the preserved lemon that pops up in every third or fourth bite of falafel.* This spice mix, along with the affordable prices, is a great addition to Carytown’s diversity.
Although the western-most block of Carytown (east of the dueling grocery stores) isn’t really the hub of activity that you see at the eastern end, it’s an ideal location for quick takeout. Usually, there’s street parking, but if on foot, you could probably walk with hot shawarma in hand all the way to the Byrd, finishing your mobile dinner just in time for the movie.
For those keeping score at home, Carytown’s pita sandwich crown recently moved from the Eatery to Basili’s without much argument. That’s right, the chicken pita at The Eatery still claims many grease addicts, though they tend to keep it on the DL. I predict Abraham’s gyros and shawarma will make a case for a new pocket sandwich king, and his falafel will put him over the top. That is, if you all get educated on these candidates and submit your votes (sauce-drenched napkins are the official ballots).
Cheese pies, spinach and sumac (with or without feta), meat or chicken pies… At $2 a pop, they’re hard to pass up. The spinach is my favorite for it’s tartness. Nonetheless, the thing that puts Döner Kebab on the map for me is the falafel. It’s not an afterthought menu item for rabbit-food eaters. Instead, it’s thoughtfully constructed with subtlety and surprises. The salty pickled cucumber together with red onion adding sweet tang. And then there’s the odd bit that tastes distinctly of preserved lemon.* You’ve got to eat it hot to really appreciate the mildly spiced chickpea patties, though whole coriander and cumin seeds will pop in your mouth at any temperature. (within a few days of posting this, Abraham started baking the pita for his falafel and it’s made a big difference)
There’s no conclusion to this story. Not yet. We’re all still wading into Abraham’s repertoire. I’d ask that some of you help me with the homework. What the heck is “Chicken Doner?” Who will be the first one to reference an airplane crash in the Andes mountains when talking of this place? Wait. Does that say strombolis on the menu? Can’t wait to watch this unfold. Hope you enjoy it.
- Cash only
- Open to 3am on Friday and Saturday, 11pm on weeknights.
- No baba ghannouj yet (tell Abraham you want smokey eggplant puree NOW)
*Abraham corrected me. It’s not preserved lemons. He uses little pieces of whole fresh lemon, rind and all.
**Apparently, I need to read my history. The Donner Party were wagon-training pioneers headed for California. Essentially, a particularly hard winter caused them to break some basic tenets of strict veganism.
On another, more recent visit, Abraham asked me to post some pictures of the gyro meat. This monster is much less intimidating in person, especially when there’s a guy with a knife ready to cut it down to size.
Apparently, he cooks it half-way as it sits in a big stack, rotating on a spit in front of the heating element. And then it’s carved into strips.
The meat then passes through an oven before going into a pita sandwich. Did I mention that Abraham bakes his pitas fresh ever day?