Kabab Cafe

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81 Good

Chef Ali El Sayed’s diminutive and eccentric Egyptian café attracts locals and culinary pilgrims — including the late Anthony Bourdain.

25-12 Steinway St., Queens, NY, 11103

718-728-9858

https://www.facebook.com/Alis-Kabab-Cafe-191785689047/

Known For

The lowdown

Much acclaimed by the media and New York foodies, Kabab Cafe, a tiny Egyptian restaurant in Astoria, lives up to its billing. It is the life’s work of the unassuming chef/owner/philosopher Ali El Sayed, who opened it in 1989 and who continues to garner a loyal following of locals, artsy types, and culinary explorers. Chef Ali’s workstation dominates the dining room, as he chops, dices, slices, and kibitzes with abandon. A half-dozen mismatched tables and varied chairs sit near banquettes covered in woolen blankets; a hodgepodge of pharaonic statuettes, mosaics, mirrors, and paintings line the mixed-colored walls. The Alexandria-born chef specializes in the soulful “mama’s food” of his cosmopolitan hometown, with slow-cooked stews and baked dishes that bring together a panoply of subtle spices. His divine mixed meze platter unites tangy and ethereal hummus, smoky baba ghannouj, and ful medames, a mash of fava beans enlivened with garlic and lemon juice. Greaseless falafel balls dot the plate, as do deep-fried chicory leaves. For entrées, an oven-baked whole striped bass is sublimely moist and fragrant with basil, dill, garlic, and cumin. Kabab Cafe is a singular experience well worth the pilgrimage; come hungry and ready for edible adventures.

What you need to know

Recommended DishesMixed meze platter; roasted striped bass.

DrinksB.Y.O.B, Beer & Wine Only

Noise LevelCivilized