For members of the MCC Mosque on Elston Avenue, Afghan Kabob offers an after-prayer hangout. For soldiers returning home from Afghanistan, the intimate space provides an avenue for impressing girlfriends, as staff redefine the casual makeup of maple-wood chairs and glass-top tables, with a more traditional one of rugs on the floor. And for residents of this Irving Park community, Afghan Kabob brings a well-received smidgen of spice.
The layout resembles your neighborhood taqueria, but separates itself with folk costumes and detailed Afghan rugs tacked onto brick-red walls. Portraits of tribal peoples in rugged regions also layer walls. You may recognize Sharbut Gula, the Afghan refugee whose photo arguably serves as National Geographic’s most notorious cover.
Most of the flavor you missed with the decor returns with a range of guests and an extensive menu. On our visit, owner Nasir Raufi appreciates a room of Latinos, Somalis and Indians. Remembering repeat customers, combined with friendly service, brings in folks from as far as Highland Park, Skokie and Evanston. And while the space works great for groups, singles with a book (no wi-fi available) will feel snug at a street-side table as Afghani background music lightly plays.
Raufi proudly claims, "All my appetizers are the best." He recommends you start off with the aushak: steamed leak-filled dumplings topped with homemade garlic yogurt sauce and dry mint ($4.99). Post appetizer, many guests opt for the "chef's most recommended" kabuli palaw: a traditional Afghan dish of skillfully seasoned lamb shank underneath a heap of baked, long-grained basmati rice garnished with sauteed carrots and raisins ($10.99). Choose from a list of kabobs, including lamb, catfish and spicy chicken. And vegetarians find comfort in several veggie fares. Raufi may even surprise enthusiastic guests with a creamy cup of Afghani Sheer Chai.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez