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Kebab Cafe status

Anyone know if Ali has survived the power/renovation issues mentioned in prior posts and is back open?

Also, what's the phone number and location? The phone number I got from Verizon (718-728-9858) is constantly busy.

I fear that he's closed! Such a bummer in general and in particular because I was going to introduce my girlfriend to the wonder that is the Kebab tonight!

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  1. Sorry it's too late for last night, but Ali's number is 718-728-9858

    1. I tried the number today (Sunday) at 4:45 p.m. It rang once and then went to some sort of static-like nothingness, as if it were a non-functioning answering machine or something. I looked in on Thursday evening and it still looked the same as the last time I saw it, with things sort of piled up or standing around blooking the door. I wonder if he's taken a vacation or finally moved to the farm he wanted to go to so he could raise the fresh ingredients himself. I didn't see any sign on the door. I suppose one of us could ask his brother. He'd surely know.

      1. I heard from a friend that Ali is re-opening tonight. Not everything is ready but he needs to re-open -- he's exhausted and broke, and he says that business is slow in the neighborhood since the blackout.

        So this is the time to go, folks.

        1. I heard him interviewed on NPR this morning. He does anticipate reopening this evening. It sounds like the business is really hurting - let's hope we can breathe some life back into it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: dianasiri

            I'm sold! I'll absolutely go! Where is it?

          2. The interview is at http://www.wnyc.org/news/articles/63069. Sorry I couldnt link, so "cut and paste". Maybe I'll drop by tonite as well, right from work (5:30 or so).

            3 Replies
            1. re: Steve R


              (In other words, without the period.
              )Hey Steve, links work automatically. Just don't use a period or other punctuation or they'll get screwed up. And include the http:// of course. You remembered that, but you put in a period so it goes to a 404 page.

              Haven't been to Kebab Cafe, but since they're hurting, maybe I'll have to trek out there tomorrow or early next week. I like Queens.

              The location is 25-12 Steinway St., Astoria, NY. For a nifty map, I recommend punching that address into the awesome subway-ified google map at:

              More threads on KC:


              1. re: Ike

                Thank you. That is a nifty map!

                Hooray, Queens!

                1. re: Ike

                  I guess I have to stop ending sentences with the link. Or skip a space before the period. Thanks... I was wondering what I was doing wrong.

                  At any rate, I went over at 6pm and hung out with Ali, who was cutting up chickens and sauteeing a bunch of things that smelled incredible. I couldnt stay long enough to get fed, as he said that nothing would be ready till 7 or 7:30. The place was somewhat cleaned up. He told me that he hadnt slept for a couple of days trying to get things back in order and that his vacation plans had to be put off. If you can get there, you should. He needs the cash to start coming in again and he's an artisan & loves to cook.

              2. I have been eating and shopping exclusively in Woodside (where I live) eversince the blackout, but we're going to an outdoor screening at the Socrates Park tonight, so I'll try to stop by Steinway. I think Makhlouf is the guy from whom we always buy basturma and eshta.

                1. So he's open for business. Not a full menu, but he has an assortment of food. The lamb with pomegranate that we had (more like a lamb meatloaf) was especially good.

                  I don't usually get this way, but this would be a good time to come out in support of a chef who has given a lot to the area. He was out for about a month and lost a lot of food plus business plus he had to pay his workers as well. And the food and the company is great there; a true experience if you have never been.

                  1. I saw some posts saying he's gotten expensive. I've never been. What can you expect to pay for a meal?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jdf

                      I have gone there only 3-4 times in the last couple of years, but I think that the price is generally similar. It's about $60 for two people eating a more than they need to order. The last time I'm sure it was more because we had a bottle of a wonderful Algerian wine (a revelation). But it is a unique dining experience. If not everything is stellar, at least it's good and some dish(es) will be wonderful.

                      But it's like those ads you see on TV:

                      Price of good-to-great dinner at Kebab Café - $35
                      Spending a couple of hours with Ali - Pricelsss

                      Anybody who cares about food and expresses that to Ali is in for an amazing evening when he has time - all too often, but he will make time - to chat about ingredients, cooking, the world. The man is urbane, enthusiastic and a true Chowhound. Our last conversation contained reviews of lots of restaurants in Queens and beyond. I don't know when he gets time to try them. But you have to go for the food and the man.

                      If I lived in the neighborhood, I would go at least once a month, probably more. It's like spending the evening in the kitchen of a friend who loves to cook and and socialize with other food lovers. The music selection is also wild. People lend him CDs. I've heard Hindi movie music, great blues, jazz, folk. It's an eclectic's dream.

                      1. re: JH Jill

                        How does Ali try all these restaurants? That's what he does on Mondays, his day off. He often takes his son along and visits 3-5 restaurants in a day. When he travels, he builds his trip around food. Ali is a true Chowhound.

                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                          A lot of our conversation on Friday consisted of comparing Totonno's to DiFara's. He'd taken his daughter to both and she seems to have liked the "old man" making pizzas (Dom). Ali's comment: "I love that guy... he loves what he's doing". I dont think Ali quite gets that he's in that "food icon" league as well. Just like DiFara's, the price isn't dirt cheap, but it's quite a bargain for the quality and craftsmanship that goes into it.

                    2. Yes, Ali is officially open again! His phone works (718) 728-9858. The address is 25-12 Steinway St. And he does need appreciative people to give him business and eat his wonderful food.

                      1. to the poster who wondered if kebab cafe is expensive, i have to say it is--i went quite awhile ago for lunch and wound up spending around 50 bucks for 2 people. the food was not bad, but nothing stands out in my mind as superlative--i can't even recall what i ate-though i believe there was a lamb dish involved. ali, however, is certainly very charming and i can see how that charm would be a draw for people. however, i've never returned because, quite frankly, i felt ripped off--i don't even recall if there was a price listing or a formal menu though i could be mistaken....

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: brooklynsabra

                          We missed the wonder of Ali tonight because he was damn rude. When the waitress told us that there would be no menu I got up to look at the menu posted outside. While I was gone he asked my sister where I was and said that he was not going to repeat what was on offer when I returned. When I got back he barked at another couple. That's when we left. Ironically, we ended up at Mombar. We were amused to find out that Ali's brother, Moustafa, cooks and owns Mombar Restaurant. Service at Mombar was on the slow side but the food was wonderful. The waitress was gracious and Moustafa was a real gentleman. They served a thin, airy bread with an olive oil and spice blend before the dinner arrived. We could not stop ourselves from gobbling it down. I would recommend both the fava bean spread and lamb tangine (sp?) There was no tap water so we were given two Poland Spring Waters at $2 each. That did not sit right with us. We were glad to have escaped Kabab Cafe for Mombar. Mombar is far more spacious and relaxing. I guess I take respect for granted when dining out. We turned the night around by voting with our feet.

                          1. re: gymcoach

                            Please grant Ali some slack. He's been under pressure lately. Apparently, the city is demanding that he install an air chute if he wants to offer a grilled food menu. Unfortunately, his landlord won't allow it so Ali pulled the menus because they included grilled items and he doesn't want to get in trouble. The poor guy is squeezed by the city, the landlord, and customers seeking menus. I hope he gets this resolved so he can get back to being his cheery self. But hey, as long as you went to the wonderful Mombar's, your patronage stayed in the family.
                            I think Mustafa and Ali should go partners and open a place in a more strategic place. I like 24th ave near the EL, where Elias Corner and the Bohemian Hall are located. Or something around 36th avenue between the EL and Steinway St.

                        2. I just got back from dinner at Kebab Cafe. The food was great and the place looks great. Remodeled kitchen area. And best of all for summer, air conditioning! With air conditioning, he’s suddenly a four-season restaurant. Ali was bitch-slapped by the power outage, but I can’t help but wonder, even with power, how many people would have eaten there in 100 degree heat.

                          Regarding price, $30 a person seems about average. If you don't order from the menu (and you shouldn't order from the menu), just think of it as a prix fix menu. You’ll leave happy and full and pay about $30. What’s wrong with that? He’s never ripping anybody off. That’s not his style. He’s certainly not a rich man (I’ve seen the broken-down car he drives), but he is a proud cook.

                          So no, the place isn’t super cheap, but really, where else are you going to get a great meal for that price? At times it is a little hard to figure out exactly how Ali comes up the bottom line, but in the end it evens out and it’s always a fair price. I know him pretty well by now, so perhaps he’s even looser with me.

                          And if you can’t afford a proper meal there, get a falafel sandwich for lunch, it’s great and something like $5. Technically take out only, but he won’t care if the place is empty. And if you don’t have a lot of money you can probably even go in there and tell him how much you want to pay (within reason) and see what he can do for you. Maybe you won’t get stake, but you’ll eat well. That’s the kind of guy he is.

                          I find that when I just tell him to bring me food, he always brings me the right amount (I over order when I tell him what I want) and it’s always delicious.

                          On to the food. We had lamb with pomegranate, duck with honey, goat chops, and a wonderful green salad. The salad is interesting. He never tells offers it as an option. After about 5 years of going there I saw somebody else eat one and asked incredulously what it was. It’s really good. For desert some sautéed apples and pears in a sweet sauce.

                          One more thing about the menu, I think he only gives the menu to people he doesn’t know. Perhaps he feels like he has to act like a proper restaurant. But his specials, and there are a lot of them, are where his heart is. Go with what he has and what he wants to sell. He’s a true professional and there are a lot worse places to be for dinner than in his hands. He’s not thinking about money when he cooks. And if you can afford between $25 and $35 a person on dinner, it’s best you focus on the food as well.

                          The only worrisome part is that outside of my party of five, there where only two other people there. Even the best chef can’t cook for just seven covers a night.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: fotaq

                            Just had great dinner with a friend on saturday night. Only had to wait about 5 minutes. Ali seemed to be in a good mood- seemed like he might have had a few beers before we got there- he was chatting everybody up, talking on the phone to some of his buddies while he was cooking, singing, etc. Went with some mixed meze to start- still not a fan of fool, but the humus and baba are top notch. Decided to go with all "normal" meats tonight, instead of "strange meats" like fillet, lamb shank or chicken. We got the sweetbreads, spleen, and tongue, which were all rich and satisfying. If you don't normally go for offal, you owe it to yourself to try something Ali recommends at least once. The spleen was so soft and rich- kind of like marrow- and the sweetbreads were perfect.

                            Just wanted to address one other thing I've heard people complain about, especially after they've had a supposedly "bad" meal here, which is the lack of the local Arab population in the restaurant. First is that Ali's cooking is slightly more adventurous than you might find in a lot of the "local" kebab and fish places. He cooks in an "Alexandrian" style, which had a lot of pan-Mediterranean influences. But really he just cooks whatever and however he feels like, and doesn't seem to care what anybody thinks about it- a very good thing. The other point is that the restaurant is not strict halal, which I'm sure drives away a lot of the potential local business. While he doesn't serve pork, I don't know that all his meat is sourced from halal butchers, and he serves alcohol.

                          2. Kabab Cafe is one of my favorite places in NYC. I wish there were more places like this.