There's something not right about walking into a restaurant and the smell is strictly cleaning product, like everything has been wiped down and disinfected five times over. I get it, your restaurant is clean, but must you pummel my olfactory system into submission?
Somewhere between the and lies the ambiance of Iraqi Kabob. It is nowhere near the dive that Tuhamas is, but it is not as welcoming as Hamido. Iraqi Kabob is, well, clean. From the just-been-scrubbed aroma to the bright white tables to the sterile fluorescent lights, there just isn't much to the atmosphere. Some art from the homeland and a TV with an Arabic station give some personality to the place.
All of that might scare you away, but don't let it. Sit down and grab ahold of their simple menu. What they lack in ambiance, the food definitely makes up for.
A single-page menu lists just six entrees: kabob, heart, liver, chicken tekka, meat tekka and mixed entree (four skewers of a mix of the above choices). All entrees come with samoon, an Iraqi flat bread that is like a cross between pita and focaccia, and a house salad.
One of the more bizarre tidbits about Iraqi Kabob is the salad is served with two dressings–ranch and Italian, both of which are served in store-bought bottles. There is a shaker with sumac and a lemon wedge on the salad plate. Do yourself a favor–skip the processed dressing and season the salad with sumac and lemon.
Like any Middle Eastern restaurant, hummus is on the menu. While this version is not as smooth other hummuses in the area, the flavors are punchy with bold lemon and garlic notes. Rip a piece off the samoon, dip it in the hummus and then in the salad for a little sandwich before the main course.
As mentioned above, the menu is very meat-centric. A unique choice is beef heart kabob. There is nothing truly strange about beef heart; in fact, it tastes intensely beefy. Offal (organ) meats are marginalized in American food culture, but other cultures have embraced these dishes for centuries. Properly grilled and seasoned, heart tastes like pot roast times 100.
Liver kabob, on the other hand, takes more getting used to. Definitely an acquired taste with its dominant iron flavor and somewhat mealy texture, liver is the dish most kids grow up hating. The flavor hasn't changed much at Iraqi Kabob, but the liver is cooked perfectly. Sprinkle some sumac on top to offset the iron taste, if you don't like too much of that mineral flavor.
If offal has you squeamish, there are more accessible options. Meat and chicken tekka are skewered meats similar to shish kabob or chicken tawook. Both are piquant and moist.
Unlike other Middle Eastern restaurants, there is no tahini or toum (garlic sauce) to dip your meat in. Meat, bread and salad–a simple formula that can be easily messed up.
Luckily, Iraqi Kabob doesn't mess up at all (aside from the overwhelming smell when you enter). Stick to the basics–hummus, meat, salad and bread–and you'll do well. Even with the lack of atmosphere, the food more than makes up the difference. For something a little different on Warren, check out Iraqi Kabob.