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Mar 8, 2004 08:20 AM

State of Iraqi food in Dearborn / Detroit plus review... (long)

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So, on a long weekend visit to Ann Arbor, I decided to try and find some Iraqi food in the Dearborn-Detroit area. Given recent events, and the lack of any such cuisine in NYC, I wanted to try and find a restaurant serving authentic Iraqi cuisine. I did some research online and found four restaurants that seemed interesting:

Iraqi New Kebab
15736 West Warren Avenue

6425 Schafer Road


Khan Mirjan
6431 Miller Road

Well, starting our trip down Warren, we noticed that Iraqi New Kebab had changed its name to Al-Asram or something similar. It also appeared to be a dingy-looking spot so we trudged on to the other two. We found Baghdadi restaurant to have also changed its name, although it was clearly out of business. (Additionally, its windows had been egged, not an uncommon sign in this area on businesses of Middle Eastern origin.) The same treatment (sans eggs) was found at Khan Mirjan, and I was at a loss for words... would I be having Iraqi food at all? I don't know any Arabic, and the English translation of a few sentences of text on many restaurant signs yielded a simple "Restaurant - Kebab".

We decided to regroup at New Yasmeen Bakery, a clean, friendly Lebanese (I think) bakery on Warren. We sampled some yummy baked goods (fig and almond bars, some other random goodies stuffed with pistachios, honey, etc.) and stocked up on British Mars bars and orange Kit Kats from Canada. Unfortunately, the coffee at this place left much to be desired.

Frustrated and running out of time, we decided to head back to the successor to Iraqi New Kebab. A gruff storefront with several people sitting around, smoking cigarettes, watching Al Jazeera and European tennis. I stepped up to the counter and ordered an Iraqi kebab. My friend tried to order, unsuccessfully, the meat tiikeh, the chicken tiikeh, and the chicken kebab before settling on the Iraqi kebab as well - as they seemed to be out of everything else. This pleased the cook much, who proclaimed "They very good. You like eat." Sounded fine as we were pretty much starving at this point.

After about fifteen minutes, two plates of ground meat (I believe lamb) kebabs were brought out to us, along with a plate of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, lemons - and a healthy serving of pita. Well, the kebabs, which numbered four to a plate and were quite a generous serving for $6, were fantastic. Perfectly grilled over charcoal (at least the singed ends tasted like that), I think they rival the fantastic kebabs at Cafe Kashkar - a Uigher restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. They were simple, tasting a lot like a doner kebab, but were somehow greasier, yet less oily. Hard to describe, but they were very tasty. And I could only finish about 2 and a half of them, leaving enough for a tasty lunch today.

So, although I wasn't able to try any of the dishes I had really wanted to sample, it proved to be a worthwhile trip. But my concern for the Iraqi (and other pan-Arab) businesses in the area lingers - have people closed up shop for reasons of fear (and lack of patronage since 9/11), or have many Iraqi ex-pats moved back to their country? Are there stronger enclaves of this cuisine? A friend mentioned Michigan Ave. had many such businesses, post-trip unfortunately, so did we miss a lot there? Or is the fact of the matter that there is just a dwindling number of such businesses and restaurants in this area. I had come into Dearborn hoping for something similar to Atlantic Avenue or lower 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, or Steinway Street in Queens, but was left with what seemed like a vibrant community which has taken a turn for the worse. Perhaps the many advertisements offering a chance to "Immigrate to Canada" sum it all up.

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  1. nice report but (maybe) very disturbing news. either its good news because people felt like they could move back to iraq now or bad re: the eggings and harrassment i do not know. where the heck do the parking lots full of dearborn iraqis whom we all saw celebrating on tv go out to eat???

    i used to be a fan of LA SHISH back when i went to college nearby did you make it there at all? it used to be very good.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mrnyc

      Sounds like you really didn't have a whole lot of time in town , too bad ... there is plenty of good Iraqi food around , not all the Iraqi immigrants are in Dearborn , that's all . As for egging or harrasment , well , I live in Detroit , and while I haven't been down to Dearborn in a month or so , I have heard nothing like that going on at all . Maybe Iraqi businessmen know how hard it is for ANY restaraunt to make it , much less an ethnic specialty place in an already saturated area . I know LOTS of Iraqis who run all kinds of other businesses , and while some idiots did cause some trouble right after 9-11 , they seem to be doing fine now . If you're ever back you might venture into some of the suburbs , try the Oak Park area , that's where my favorite Chaldean market is ( 9 Mile and Coolidge area ) and many little cafes and meat and fish markets . I live less than a few miles away and can personally vouch for the quality of most of these places . Also , you can never , ever go wrong at La Shish . Ever . Sublime hummus , best raw kibbie I've ever had , and oh my lord , the Flaming Tower , a brass and fire monument to all things great about grilled meat . As for where else to go , sadly , Detroit does not have very many concentrated ethnic enclaves the way NYC does . Greektown has good food , but few actual greek residents , Mexican Village is about it , really . Other than that , you just have to go out and find the spread-out , fractures communities . It is the Motor City , after all . We drive EVERYWHERE . And it shows . If you make it to 9 and Coolidge to the Kashat Market , say hello to David for me .

      1. re: GoalieJeff

        Yeah - I desperately wanted to try La Shish, but we have very good Lebanese food here in NYC. And it did seem like there were other Iraqi businesses, just none that were restaurants. Next time I'm in the area, I'll try to make it to Kashat Market. Could you recommend any Chaldean restaurants? I know their cuisine differs slightly from Muslim Iraqi food, as does Kurdish, but it's close enough. (And I can't say I know of any Chaldean restos here in NYC, either...)

        1. re: Lambretta76

          Well , I can't remember the name exactly , but right next door to the aforementioned Kashat Market there is a fine looking place , Al Sameera (?) or something ? it's right next door , and I believe the same family owns both establishments . No , I am not a paid endorser , we just happened to stumble across the place soon after they first opened , and boy , were they happy to have "regular american " customers . I wouldn't normally push an establishment like this , but I know that the patriarch of the family makes regular trips back to Baghdad to keep up on the latest trends to keep his bread and butter clientele happy . If they ain't got it , they will get it for you . Also tonight as I was driving home it occured to me that there is another area that many people are unaware of . On 7 Mile just east of Woodward there is an area sometimes called little Baghdad , at last visit there were some cafes and Halal markets , it was hard to tell which places were what , as all the signs were in Arabic and I don't read it . I ate at one dingy ( but good ) place , and shopped at another for fresh fava beans ( a great market ) . The surrounding neighborhood is scary ( don't go after dark , ALL the locals pack heat ) , but main street parking is fine , and most merchants are happily friendly to take your money . I think this is where many of the new immigrants end up . It's worth a try , anyway .

    2. Hello...I read your post on the Iraqi restaurant situation in the Dearborn area...unfortunately, you are correct...there aren't really any. However, if you try another area, there is a fantabulous restaurant called Sahara in Oak is Chaldean owned...thus, original Iraqi food. Other than that, the small dingy place is the best you will get in Dearborn/ Detroit border area...they do have good food there too. I am in search of a good Iraqi bakery, as last week or so, my favorite bread is no longer...the Iraqi bakery in that area closed due to deportation, I believe. But, once you go north, or west to the Chaldean areas..I am sure there are more establishments. Next time, try's on Coolidge Rd. @ I696 won't regret it...:))