Kebab House not in order 

Poor service undermines the kitchen's few good dishes.

click to enlarge Kebab House's chicken shish kebab with feta sald and falafel image
  • Jess Millar
  • LACKING: Kebab House's chicken shish kebab with feta sald and falafel.

When a new restaurant opens in town, it's an exciting event for us, so when the "Coming Soon" sign proclaiming a new kebab restaurant went up in the former Zogi's, we knew right away that it was a place we wanted to try. Kebab House has a menu that features several varieties of the pressed and shaved meat varieties as well as salads and traditional side dishes like hummus and baba ghanouj. Unfortunately, the food was relatively mediocre, and the service was a confused mess. This is a real shame, because while there were some decent parts to our meal, there wasn't anything so compelling as to ever entice us to return.

We had originally intended to try the Lahmajun — the "Turkish Pizza" made with minced lamb, beef, and onions — but the cashier behind the counter claimed that they were all out. This was a disappointment that turned into puzzlement when we saw the same girl bringing out two of the flatbread items to a table of two behind us that came in nearly 20 minutes after we ordered. This confused, overwhelmed nature would permeate the entire meal, and really put a damper on our dining experience.

What we wound up ordering was the Chicken Shish Kebab ($10.95), a generous portion of grilled chicken served with two sides. The sides we chose were a Turkish Feta Salad and the Falafel. The chicken in question lacked any real flavor, and even though we could see grill marks on the meat, there wasn't much of the charred, smoky flavor we've come to expect from this dish. The feta salad was iceberg lettuce drenched in olive oil, with one solitary tomato and not a single speck of feta in sight, and the oily greens could have definitely used the cheese's briny kick to add some taste. The falafel were easily the best thing on the plate, with a hearty, spicy flavor and a good texture that was crisp on the outside and soft on the interior.

Along with the chicken, we ordered hummus ($2.25), and here again the service seemed hopelessly overwhelmed. After asking twice — and having paid in advance — for the hummus, we were finally given a plate of the chickpea puree, but none of the pita bread that was supposed to come with it. This necessitated another trip to the counter to ask for bread, and while the cashier promised she'd bring some out, we had not received it by the time we'd finished our meal. We thought the hummus itself was fantastic, tangy and smooth with just the right kick of olive oil and tahini; it was the best thing we tried all night.

Our other entree was the Iskender Kebab ($10.95), a large plate of shaved lamb served over pieces of pita and covered in tomato sauce. The meat was tasty, if a touch dry, and the yogurt served on the side seemed to be homemade. The tomato sauce could have benefited from more spice, but it soaked into the bread nicely to give every bite a good, hearty taste. The flavor of the meat in this dish surpassed that of the chicken, but we didn't think it compared all that favorably with places like Layla's or Ali Baba. The portion was quite generous, however, justifying the price in terms of the amount of food given.

We finished our meal with a cup of Turkish coffee ($1.95), and the thick, sweet brew was as good as we'd ever tasted. Again, there was some confusion with the coffee, and we made yet another trip back to the counter in order to ask for it. Given that Kebab House has an order and pay first approach to things, we weren't exactly in a position to just have them take things off the bill, and while everyone was friendly enough, we were left with the feeling that they're either inexperienced at serving the public or just didn't care enough to be attentive to our ticket. Either way, the result was a meal in which most of the dinner conversation centered around what might go wrong next.

It's true, of course, that every restaurant staff can have an off night, but we struggle to think of another experience we've had in Little Rock that comes close to the level of poor service we received at Kebab House. Not knowing if menu items are available, forgetting dishes, then serving them incomplete after several requests — these are the kind of mistakes that really turn us off a place. Add to this a menu that (aside from the hummus and coffee) was pretty pedestrian, and it's a recipe for possible disaster. We hope that Kebab House can turn things around, or that this was an out-of-the-ordinary bad night for them, but we don't see ourselves going back to test that idea any time soon.


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