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Kebab Cafe in Astoria= disgusting

Kebab Cafe in Astoria= disgusting
wow, after reading all of the glowing reviews of this place I was psyched to try it, especially since it was in my neighborhood. I couldn't wait to try the place and actually was sad that one of my friends wanted to go tonight because I didn't think I was hungry enough. I wanted to really FEAST!

The ambience is cute, very charming. Small and rundown but lovely in a homey way. The clientele looked to be mostly young professionals from the neighborhood, like myself. I was psyched, and couldn't wait for the food. Unfortunately, that is where everything went downhill. The Ali guy who runs the place adds to the charm, or so everyone says. I actually found him to be kind of a sad clown who would light up when people were looking but mostly looked pissed off. Anyway, he was the least of it. I walked out of there embarrassed that I had dragged a friend to the place.

KEBABS WERE CHARRED. When Ali brought out my kebabs in a cast iron skillet and served them to me, I was incredulous. I kid you not, this meal looked like a pile of charcoal briquets. I had to scrape off the char just to see what I was eating. I am fine with a bit of char, and don't mind how it tastes. Roasted tomatoes are one of my favorite foods and was happy to see a little red tomato flesh peeking out from under all of that black. But, when I bit into into it the sucker was RAW! Seriously so dissappointing! And a little char is nice but this felt like a mouthful of ashes. My friend that had come with me had gotten the beef kebabs and had the exact same problem.

I could not at all recommend this place to you or anyone, even if you were starving and a block away. And it isn't dirt cheap either. Why do this to yourself? Go to Cafe Mogador in the East Village and enjoy some real, amazing middle eastern fare. Don't trek out to this disgusting hole!

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  1. Sorry you didn't like it. My wife & I were there this past Sat. evening and we had a great meal. Meatball appetizers out of the skillet, lamb chunks w/veggies out of the skillet and even a whole fish out of the skillet. The fish stuck a little and I joked with Ali that he needs to get some teflon pans (his skillets are aged & a source of pride to him). None of it charred. All of it tasty. You're correct that he's not cheap but the food is very well prepared and we love him and the place. Oh well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Steve R

      Skillets are aged and a pride to him?????
      I dont get it
      did he bring them from his house because the kebab cafe has not been around THAAT long
      I personally think the place is not good not worth a visit

    2. maybe you can recommend a middle eastern place that the locals in the community eat at? there seem to be a lot of egyptians in this part of stenway- there is an amazing looking hookah bar filled with old men across the street from kebab cafe. i thought it was interesting that there were no middle eastern families or couples eating at kebab cafe. they must know a better place!

      1 Reply
      1. re: besmircher

        I really don't for Astoria, although you may want to try Mombar Cafe, down the block from Ali's. But, be forewarned, he's Ali's brother. Most of the Egyptian places I've seen in Astoria are either empty or just not getting business from neighborhood families. But... I cant pretend that I know Queens that well.

        Come to Brooklyn and go to Tanoreen on 3rd Ave in Bay Ridge. It's Palestinian and fantastic. Lots of middle eastern families (and Chowhounds) are always there. Or, for real ethnic flavor (and good food), a different Middle Eastern type of place, Yemen Cafe, on Atlantic Ave, off Henry.

      2. My two trips to Kebab Cafe, one many years ago, the other in the fall of last year, were split: the first time being a let-down, the second considerably better. Both times, Ali was especially solicitous and friendly; it sounds like you caught him in a particularly bad mood and a bad night. I can't blame someone for not wanting to return after such a bad and disappointing experience.

        My one trip to Mombar, which has one of the most inventive and eye-catching exteriors in all of NYC, was a dissapointment. Bear in mind that this was very long ago, and it was one visit - you might want to check it out for yourself.

        I have had good meals and bad at an Egyptian cafe known as Eastern Nights, across the street from the above-mentioned eateries, on Steinway. Bright orange awning. I would not personally recommend the kebabs, which, along with the pita, struck me as dry afterthoughts. I did feast one night, however, on duck and pidgeon (freek), which turned out to be quite tasty. Alas, on another visit, too greasy. They have many different varieties of shisha, which - along with a handful of other cafes on the block - are offered for a fraction of the price that you would pay at similar spots in Manhattan.

        Sorry I can't come up with a rave here.

        1. Mogador? Really??

          It had good mezzas once a long time ago (when I wrote about it), but it was never a kebab place, and it's considered very downhill. That said, I haven't been in ages, so maybe it's me who's unhip on that one.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jim Leff

            Mogador is okay if you live in the neighborhood but you need not go out of your way.

          2. Perhaps my love of Mogador is mostly sentimental, as I used to live down the street. They make an excellent chocolate cake and I love to sit in their with a pot of mint tea. I've often had their chicken and it was amazing. You are right, it is not a kebab place but the meat is moist and not blackened beyond recognition like at Kebab.

            Mombar looked really cool when I passed by, but I think I will try Eastern Nights, which was mentioned above.

            1 Reply
            1. re: besmircher

              there are so many places opening and closing on steinway that i still haven't tried them all (like cafe layali, rawsheh). but, generally, i grew frustrated with the overcooked lamb that is pretty standard fare up and down the block. mostly, i shop for lamb at one of the steinway butcher shops and cook it at home. (my favorite butcher is the one just south of 25th ave with the green and yellow awning- it's owned by the same people as the halal sandwich place.) or i get a sandwich or a platter at either little morocco (steinway and 25th ave) or the halal sandwich shop with the yellow and red awning across from layali. both of those places do a pretty good job not overcooking the meat, especially little morocco. also, the newish moroccan place next to the carvel is pretty good. unfortunately, all the meals i've had at kebab cafe, mombar and eastern nights involved distressingly overcooked lamb kebabs. thankfully, there is always laziza, where the baked goods are just about perfect everytime.

            2. I'm really sorry that you had such a bad experience. I have eaten at Kabab Cafe three times, and each time the food has been at worst, good, and at best, fantastic. Every time Ali has been wonderful. He loves foodies. However, he is an artistic, emotional soul and quite human, so it is very possible that he has some off days. It's not a standardized menu made to rigid specs. He gets what's fresh and makes what he feels like making, so one always takes some chances.

              The last time I went, the place was so full that we had no place to wait inside, and it was too cold outside. Ali suggested we go to his brother's place. We decided to go to Mombar, since we'd never been. It is also Egyptian, but quite different. There, baked foods and casseroles are on the menu, as well as mombar, the sausage, which we weren't crazy about. We enjoyed the locale, much roomier and delightfully decorated. Everyone there was nice — even Ali came to visit us there — and the food was good. We did really love one dish, a baked sea bass, I believe, with a scrumptious spinach side dish. The appetizer bread they brought there was also fantastic.

              I still prefer Ali's, and I haven't been to the other Middle Eastern places around. I would say to go to Ali's, if you would ever consider it again, and order something on the specials menu. It is possible to have a transcendent evening there. And the time we had Algerian wine, we relly enjoyed it.

              1. I plan to have lunch for the first time at Kebab Cafe. Any updates on how it is? Any recommendations for what to order?

                3 Replies
                1. re: queenseats

                  Well, don't order the kababs. Seriously. The cheap stuff on the menu is hit-or-miss. Your best bet is to ask him what's good today and go with that.

                  1. re: Harlan

                    Does Ali do takeout? I just tried the Halal Sandwich place across the street by the Carvel. It has an orange and yellow awning. Always packed and the kebab sandwich I had there was to die for. the only downside is they make everything to order and it took about 20 minutes but I see why. Even the fries were good. This will be my new spot for sure!

                    1. re: fcara

                      used to live in Astoria... Where is the Kebab Cafe you are talking about?

                2. Try Kabul Kebob on Main Street in Flushing. I've been going there for over 15 years and stilll loving it. In fact, I come in from NJ to feast there since I relocated 7 years ago.
                  (718) 461-1919
                  42-51 Main St, Flushing, NY

                  1. I am still glowing after my (first) dinner at Kebab Cafe last night. We didn't even see the menu and ordered the lamb shank (amazing), the artichoke heart "salad" (which was sauteed artichoke hearts in a skillet with onion, green pepper...the only instance i've like green pepper) and a mezze platter with the best hummus and falafel I've EVER had. The hummus was super lemon-y and the baba had enough cumin. Ali of course was a character, "food is love" he kept reminding us. We also made friends with other diners. That meal came out to 76 dollars and we left 100. So...a little expensive (not the cheap eat that its sometimes lauded as) but well worth every penny for such deeelightful food. (His wine was great, but I will bring my own in the future to shave costs).

                    1. Agreed! Not worthwhile, and expensive. It's definitely about the ambience, Ali's personality, and the illusion of intimacy. (No one gets menus, and Ali is charming and friendly with almost everyone.)

                      I like some of the hookah places. After I went to Kebab Cafe, I met up with some friends at a hookah place on Steinway between 25th and 28th (sorry, can't remember the name). It's the one with the pirate out front, closer to 28th. The food was awesome, plentiful, and inexpensive. One (obvious) caveat -- it's really smoky inside, since it's a hookah bar.