|Image via Wikipedia|
|Kebab or kebob -- it's lamburger with exotic spices.|
Turkish restaurants have a long way to go before they challenge the number of Italian-American restaurants in North Jersey, but few towns are going without some variant of kebabs and their side dishes.
I recalled how my mother served a kosher, home-cooked Syrian meal just about every night of the year, with an occasional takeout coal-oven pizza making an appearance on our dining room table for our weekly dairy meal (no meat).
So, I took out my folder of restaurant menus on Saturday night and suggested we try a new Turkish restaurant in Hackensack, and order a meal without meat.
I was all kebabed-out long before I stopped eating meat in February 2010. And no Turkish restaurant could ever match my mother's kebabs with cherries.
My meat-loving, 14-year-old son put up a fight, even though we went out to a Korean soft-tofu restaurant the night before and ordered beef barbecue for everybody but me.
But when I mentioned the restaurant had chicken soup and that we'd have fish or shrimp, if available, he relented.
We had a filling meal at Kebab House on Main Street, but won't be returning for long list of reasons -- from the plastic plates and drink cups to the unimaginative name.
The owners, it turns out, are Russian, though the cook is Turkish. It seems the couple's son operates a Turkish restaurant on Kings Highway in Brooklyn, where I grew up.
Although this is Hackensack's first Turkish restaurant, a Middle Eastern restaurant and nightclub named Aladdin has been operating successfully at the other end of Main Street for many years.
Kebab House seems to have seating for only 12, so three tables for two were pushed together for the four of us.
An exposed brick wall running along one side of the narrow space provides a little warmth, but the plates and those small paper napkins from a dispenser cheapen the experience.
I brought a half-empty bottle of Bordeaux, but no one offered me a wine glass, and I didn't want to drink it out of a small plastic drink cup.
I ordered lentil soup for me and chicken soup for the rest of the family ($3.95 each); a small shepherd salad of chopped tomato, cucumber and onion ($4.95); a small hummus ($4.95); a small grilled eggplant salad ($5.50); babaghanoush ($5.50) ; cigara boregi or cigar-like philo dough stuffed with salty cheese ($5); a small grilled vegetables ($5); four soft drinks, hot Turkish tea and one off-menu entree, shrimp sauteed with vegetables and served with rice and salad (I don't recall the price).
I couldn't get the Russian woman to understand we wanted to try a spicy ezme salad, which I've had in just about every other Turkish restaurant. Apparently, she had never heard of it.
Prices are reasonable, but portions are small. The woman said I didn't have to order a shepherd salad, because one came with the entree. But the shrimp platter had a plain, iceberg-lettuce salad with tomato and onion.
The fragrant lentil soup, the grilled eggplant salad and the deep-fried cigara boregi were the best items I tried, but the others liked the shrimp dish, though the crustaceans were small. The hummus was bland.
We never got the grilled vegetables -- just as well, because we were full. But the $5 charge appeared on the bill. When I pointed it out, the woman lopped off $5 from the total of $52.92, but didn't adjust the sales tax. My tip was only $5.
As we were leaving, we noticed a new Caribbean-soul food restaurant, Boomerang's, is preparing to open in the space once occupied by Mangos, across the street from Kebab House.
That block of Main Street is looking particularly forlorn, with the failed Limon market remaining empty and an office building next to a Cuban restaurant missing its facade.
It didn't help the street was closed for cleanup from a street festival.
Kebab House, 137 Main St., Hackensack, 201-880-6167.
BYO, street parking with meters, credit cards accepted.
Web site: Kebab House in Hackensack