Afghan's kickin' kebabs

TAKEOUT

Downtown cafe is a crowd-pleaser

February 09, 2005|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was Friday night, company was coming, and we ordered nearly every entree on the menu of Afghan Kabob & Cafe.

While our order was being prepared in the large, open kitchen of the downtown restaurant, I took in the surroundings. A portrait of Princess Diana graced one wall of the cafe and renderings of Afghan warlords hung on another. A map of Afghanistan topped by an American flag also spoke to the twists and turns of the world in which we live.

My server was undeterred by the huge order and assembled everything promptly and pleasantly, even offering to help take it to the car.

Back home, the carefully assembled meal vanished in a couple of heartbeats. The appetizers alone would have made us happy. We loved the banjan ($3.99), pan-fried eggplant baked with tomatoes and peppers and served on yogurt garlic mint sauce. Kaddo ($3.99), a serving of pan-fried baby pumpkin that was baked and complemented by yogurt sauce and ground beef, was an exotic variation on a Thanksgiving staple. The crowd also gobbled up the sabzi ($3.99), a spinach dish prepared with sauteed onion and garlic.

Each kebab entree made an impression judging by the way our kitchen full of eaters reached for every last morsel buried beneath salad leaves and rice. The lamb kebab ($8.99) was tender, and the beef kebab ($7.99), made from charbroiled, marinated steak, was pleasing for those of us hungry for summer sensations.

Made of ground beef cooked on skewers, the kofta kebab ($7.99) was better than a burger, and the chicken kebab ($7.49) was the savory sum of its marinade.

A final entree, the mixed vegetable platter ($7.99), offered a healthy melange of chick peas, pumpkin, rice, eggplant and okra. All of the platters arrived with helpings of Afghan salad, a salsa-like concoction of diced veggies blended with an intriguing dressing, as well as rice and flat bread, fresh from the restaurant's clay oven. Several dishes came with a delicious cilantro dressing, which added zip to everything it touched.

For dessert, the baklava - or bucklawa on the menu - was a masterpiece of balance, not too sweet, with just the right proportion of nut filling and spices ($3.99). A rice pudding ($3.99) tasted a tad chalky, but grew on me each time I returned to the refrigerator for another bite.

Afghan Kabob & Cafe

Food: ***1/2

Service: ****

Waiting area: ***

Parking: **

Where: 37 S. Charles St.,

Phone: 410-727-5511

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

Prices: Afghan appetizers, kebabs, salads and vegetable dishes, from $2.49 to $15.99. Credit cards accepted

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