Flowers, food, feet, & more
The el Mokadems both work full time as engineers, but have always wanted to own a restaurant (one of them is usually there in the evening). Keli, Jamal's wife, was waiting tables the afternoon we stopped in, though she doesn't have any more time on her hands than they do-she's a full-time nursing student with four young children. Still, she found time to quickly paint a picture of the restaurant's mission: cheap, fun food and no tipping. "We have four children, and you have to think of things to eat that are creative"-hence, the "shish kapeanut" and "shish colada," two recipes she, Jamal, and the kids invented at home. Both are just $2.99, as are a bunch of other, more traditional, Middle Eastern sand-wiches, most with generous servings of grilled, marinated meat and a dollop of rice wrapped in a pita. Vegetarian sandwiches are only $2.49. Full-meal versions are around $9.
As for the no-tipping policy, Keli points out that McDonald's and other counter-service restaurants pay real wages and don't do tips. But it's taken some training to get customers used to the idea at a restaurant with table service. "At first people would say, 'No, really, we have to tip,' and so we'd give them food for it. I mean, someone would leave two dol-lars, and we'd give them a few pieces of baklava. Now that we have regular customers, they understand and they're really appreciative."
Kaboba's, 4003 Carpenter Rd. 879-1134. Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m. www.kabobas.com.
[Originally published in May, 2009.]