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kebab cafe problem

The first couple of times I went to KC for dinner, I had a great experience...the food, the vibe, Ali, etc. but the last few times I've gone, I've been struck with some sticker shock by the end of the meal. This is because I've almost exclusively ordered from what he is serving special that day. He doesn't usually announce the prices and I hate having to ask for each one (ie "oh, that sounds great..what does it cost?") Now I know most folks say to only really order from the stuff he tells you...but is there stuff on the menu worth trying? maybe it's better to go for a lighter lunch? As I've just moved to Astoria, I would like to give it another chance because I love the vibe of the place. any advice would be greatly appreciated...

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  1. yes, there is plenty on the menu worth trying, as in pretty much everything. i don't have a copy of the menu in front of me, but when we go, we order a mixture of specials and menu items.

    1. I don't understand what's so hard or intimidating avout asking what specials cost anywhere -- whether it's at a four-star fine-dining establishment or at Kabab Cafe. But incidentally, when I used to live in the neighborhood I remember many of the specials used to cost $17 or so, and they're probably a bit more now. Fresh fish, veal tail, good lamb, etc. are gonna cost more than chicken, skirt steak or falafel.

      It's really okay. Ali is not going to be offended if you ask how much a special costs. And in the meantime, the stuff on the menu is equally terrific for what it is. The babaghanouj is wonderful, the foul fantastic. The general 'hound recommendation to go with specials and whatever's in the fridge is because.. well.. the only way you'll find anything like them is to become good friends with a very skillful, well-traveled Egyptian grandmother.

      1. Err... I know you say don't like to ask, but wouldn't that be better than avoiding a restaurant you love?

        1. Tummyache, I felt the same way after paying $14 for 4 pumpkin ravioli drowning in sauce with no accompanying anything. Sure they were good, but I also don't appreciate his bringing you bottled water without asking which kind of "water" you meant, and making you pay for it. Although one SHOULD ask how much the specials are and one SHOULD speak up about the water, one SHOULD also feel like they can trust their host. I don't understand what makes Ali different from tourist trap restaurants in Manhattan that charge twice as much for their specials as their regular offerings. I go there every once in a while, but even though it is tasty and fun, I always leave feeling just a little bit like a chump.

          1 Reply
          1. re: melon

            The responsibility of asking prices is on the diner. It's not like you're going to his house and asking how much the lamb cost. It's a commercial transaction - you give him money, he gives you food. Lots of other places don't give specials prices either. I always make a point of asking for the price of anything that piques my interest.

          2. My problem with KC lately is not the money ... Ali seems so DOWN! I think this blackout/brownout really took some wind out of his sails. He's such a jolly guy but he seemed so sad the couple of times I went. I think he's genuinely hurting, economically, folks. So the moral is - eat there and ask the price - then pay it...

            And keep going!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Monkey Man Jake

              You're correct. The blackout has brought him perilously close to financial ruin. Additionally, he had to scrap his plans for his vacation and he's been busting his ass. So yes Jake you are exactly right. Go often.

            2. When my boyfriend and i go there (2 times a month at least) we always get whatever he wants to cook and a steak. sometimes with an app. and some wine and it will be around $40-$50.I don't think it is a crazy amount for what we are getting. You have to remember-its not a huge place so he doesn't get anything with huge discounts or in bulk so things may be a bit more expensive. I do feel like everything is made with love though and thats priceless. I don't think there is anything wrong with asking the prices on stuff at all. And from what i've heard and experienced myself, he will be the first one to say- "you don't have enough? how much do you have, its ok, you like the food you pay what you can." That means alot to me personally, so in a time of need like this after the blackout- i feel like i need to go there and show my support no matter how small my meal may be. I would be crushed if he closed. go and spend $10 on the veggie platter or go and spend $50 on a feast, just go and enjoy the meal and the experience of one of Astoria's gems. (i'm not loaded by any means, i just choose to spend my money where i feel it is deserved and i get satisfaction from it too)

              eat happily foodies!

              1. A friend and I had our first KC experience yesterday for dinner. We went there (and travelled far to get there) because of the humitas- they were delicious, but nothing like their Chilean counterparts at all. But delicious. We shared that and the special stripped bass with vegetables, and a yogurt with fruits. We also ordered some chicken kebab to go for one of the hubbies. Everything came to $80 with tip- which seemed fine for some really good food (the fish was $22). Ali seemed happy, although I have nothing to compare to. A great place all around.

                1. aaahhhh, i saw you guys there! couldn't help it when Ali brought out that fish. So glad you liked it. My boyfriend got a steak (thats all he ever eats)with potatoes and veggies and i got the lemon sole with rice and veggies. 2 beers and a coke with some yummy honey drenched dessert and it was $50. I paid happily and will be back again and again.

                  1. If you want to keep your check down a little, you can also BYO. If you bring a bottle of red, be sure to send some over to Ali.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Abbylovi

                      Yes, but if we'd done that we'd never have found out what good wine they make in Algeria. I admit I'm not much of a drinker anymore, and my friend isn't a connoisseur either, but we both still talk about the Algerian wine a year later. I don't know how much it was since she treated me, but she didn't seem to be in sticker shock.

                    2. After seven years or so of going to KC, I went with someone who actually wanted to order a kebab! It wasn't at all what I expected. The cubes of meat (in this case, chicken) were joined by the usual melange of vegetables and stir-fried after being grilled.

                      The moral: the stuff on the regular menu might be more interesting than it appears. Ali once told me that he was a little surprised that regulars don't order off the menu more often.

                      1. Yeah, the sticker shock can be a problem, especially at first. The thing is, what I wouldn't tolerate anywhere else, well, it's sort of hard to complain about KC. The hits vastly outnumber the misses, and the hits are usually outta the park. So I've learned to live with ridiculously priced specials, bring my own wine, and gone with the flow.

                        An aside: I don't think I've ever been to place quite like KC, a hole-in-the-wall with some jaw dropping prices. In order for him to have so many specials available on a regular basis, he's got to charge more. So in the long run, I figure I'm paying an extrs 25% or so in return for a greater variety of delicious food than I'd otherwise have in Astoria. Besides, it's really not that much. Really. Hmmm. Maybe I should go more often... :)

                        1. Jaw dropping...? I can't agree. For the quality of food, the only reason my jaw drops is to pack more food in my mouth.

                          In Manhattan, you'd pay 30bux and up a plate for some of the quality and quantity you get.

                          And for free, you get Ali.

                          1. Yeah we got to help that guy. Hate to see that restaurant go. Ali just kept on dropping freebies on my plate during the meal, which I appreciated and gives me reason to want to go back and try the other dishes. If you haven't gone there you have to try his place. We should support that guy!

                            1. it was great tonight, oh my.

                              the chicken and saffron rice special was soooo delicious. and i don't even really like chicken.

                              1. Give the guy a break! He charges me $1 for a bottle of water! It's so cheap because he doesn't want to deal with tap water. Given his place, it's just easier for him to serve cold Poland Spring water than deal with warm tap water (he has no ice) and cleaning glasses (he never seems to have enough).

                                Give the man some credit for making a living. How many other places, many of them good, have gone under?