Monthly Archives: December 2008

Scott Birdseye

Our Review of Kebob Cafe in Astoria Queens

Probably few people know about the tiny neighborhood of Little Egypt, nestled within the much larger neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. To say Little Egypt is tiny, is actually quite an understatement; it consists of one block of Steinway Street, between 28th Avenue and Astoria Blvd, excluding, of course, the two thirds of that block occupied by non-Egyptian related businesses. So, when we say that Little Egypt is a tiny neighborhood, we really mean to say that it’s a collection of seven hookah bars, three restaurants and a store that sells phone cards and Moroccan pop music.

When I first moved to Astoria, many years ago, I took frequent trips up to this block. It was right after 9-11, so the idea of exploring a predominantly Muslim area carried with it a mystique of being accepting of other cultures and taking full part in the brotherhood of humanity. Sure, those back in Georgia might fear or hate the swarthy Middle Eastern immigrants, but here I was ready to buy cigarettes in their delis and sample their cuisine. This soon stopped. Not because I wasn’t interested in promoting the brotherhood of humanity, but because traveling to Little Egypt left me feeling like a black man at a lunch counter in Selma, Alabama circa 1952.

Let’s just say that these Middle Eastern men were not interested in serving white Americans, or treating them with the simple respect due a money-laden customer looking for hot falafel and kafta kebobs, or with looking me in the eye, or acknowledging my existence. Let’s just say they were about as interested in serving me some food as a laid-off Detroit auto-worker is interested in the new line of Toyotas. Dutifully, I would go up to the counter, ready with my order, only to be completely ignored. Arab men, in their over-sized Yankee jerseys and saggy jean shorts would show up after me, and would be served instantly. A few times I would just get frustrated and leave, other times I would stick to my guns and insist on being served my food, only to stand there sheepishly waiting while others came in after me, ordered, took their food and left while I still stood waiting for my lamb goodness.

Finally, and that is to say after about three months of this, I never bothered going in to those shops again. Yes, I voted with my dollars and took my business elsewhere; explored the Columbian, Brazilian, Greek and Eastern European fare to be had. It actually gave me a little satisfaction to see one dining establishment that had snuffed me, El Manara, closed one day as I walked by. And thus, for years, I ignored that block, ignored Little Egypt, and what might have been of its culinary offerings.

Until yesterday, when I was persuaded to give Kebob Café a chance. I’d probably walked by the place a thousand times, but I assumed it was like the others and never bothered to go in, try it or even give it a second chance. Yes, I was horribly, horribly wrong.

To say the Kebob Café is small is another one of those understatements, like saying the universe is ‘roomy.’ There’s enough room for about twelve people to enjoy a meal, though only for six of those to sit comfortably. Other than the size of the place, my first impression was of the smell; exotic and unearthly spices for the highs, heavy with frying meat to the lows, with just a hint of pounded dough and fruit to round out the middle. Secondly, I noticed the numerous pieces of figurative art on the walls, tucked in between antique lamps, esoteric decorations and quietly hidden iPod playing traditional Mediterranean music. Wait a second. Figurative art? Must not be too strict of Muslims I thought. This thought was seconded, voted upon and passed unanimously when the Chef came over and offered us something to drink, pointing out the numerous wines and beers he had on hand.

Barely had I begun to notice how different Kebob Café was from the run-of-the-mill places, the Chef came over, sat down with us and began to go over some of the various menu items he was preparing that night. Not through rote memory, but rather on a journey, he recited the various dishes he was capable of preparing.

Now, I’ve been to places that had the gimmick of not having a menu. Either they offer only one or two entree choices, or they force you to just kind of guess from the waitress’s speech. But, this was different. There’s no menu at the Kebob Café, because I think the Chef doesn’t like it being so clinical. He, and his helper, are the only staff, there are no waiters or busboys or dishwashers, no hostesses or line cooks. And with so few diners per seating, it’s an intimate atmosphere. So intimate in fact, that after he gave us a few options, he saw our bewilderment and stated quite plainly “I have to go prepare someone else’s meal right now, you drink your beers and then we’ll talk through this, find something you’ll like.”

After a few minutes he did come back, returned to his seat and plainly asked “What do you like?”

We rattled off a few notions and he took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Immediately, he began to prepare a meal in his head and describe it to us “First we’ll get you some falafel and some hummus, and a salad. What do you like better: beets or artichokes? Beets? Okay, we make you a beet salad with some peppers and onions- you don’t like onions, it’s okay I know the Chef, we put in some other stuff then, mix that up with a little oil and vinegar. Then you need something like a main course; you like meat, are you vegetarian? Meat, eh?”

Then, he proceeded to rattle off the numerous meats he could prepare for us delicately roasted and served over a bed of rice; a zoo, a menagerie; beer, lamb, chicken, duck, fish (of various types), rabbit, quail, yes quail, and, while I’m not certain, he may have mentioned kangaroo, bald eagle and ibex. Indeed the Chef is half of what makes Kebob Café worth visiting and returning to. Like an old Vaudevillian, you know in your heart his banter is well rehearsed, heavily practiced and that with you, it’s the fifteen thousandth time he’s done it. But it’s good, it’s professional, and he’s a master so you can’t help but appreciate it.

You know you can trust a chef when in the close atmosphere of their restaurant you can watch then nibbling at the food they’re cooking. Once you’ve seen them do that it’s okay that they come over to your table and pick up individual pieces of a dish and show you, with their fingers, how best to combine them. When this Chef picks up, with his bare fingers, a piece of food off the platter, dips it into the sauce for you and puts it on your plate, you’re appreciative of the suggestion.

And the food. Oh yes, this is a restaurant review, so what about the food? Kebob Café is one of those places where they bring you huge plates of various foods and while you may not be able to accurately identify what exactly the particular food item is, specifically, you don’t care. It’s just big heaps of delicious food. Our meal consisted of a beet salad (beets mixed with other things we couldn’t quite identify), a huge plate of hummus, baba ganoush, fresh apples, roasted peppers, steaming hot pita bread and various other touches, which again were not identifiable but were nonetheless delicious. To top it off, we had roast lamb, stuffed with, yes, more lamb. The inside lamb was finely chopped and mixed with walnuts, spices and again, various other bits. Did we know what they were? No. Were they good? Yes. And was it lamb stuffed inside of other lamb? Yes, and it was quite good.

Kebob Café is an excellent spot for delicious food and in a good atmosphere, cooked by a Chef who knows how to make a meal a great experience. It’s intimate, it’s good, you’ll laugh, you’ll get stuffed and, if you can get a chair, you’ll have a great evening. It’s a little pricy, but well worth it. And I recommend it, because, hey, I know the Chef.

Kebob Cafe
25-12 Steinway St., Astoria, NY 11103
N or W to Astoria Blvd.

Jeremy Rosen

Russian Girls Need an Expiration Date

The attractiveness of Russian girls is pretty well-known. Also their avarice. Otherwise Russian bride web sites wouldn’t be so prominent and our Russian émigrés here in the States wouldn’t have the well-founded reputation of looking for “rich American husband.” Every Russian girl I’ve ever met in New York examined my wallet pocket first. Except for Uki, who was a rich nuclear physicist and didn’t need my money. Just a good lay and some vodka.

Now, I come from Georgia (the U.S. one, not that one roundabout Armenia) and we’re definitely known for our Southern belles. More beautiful and more fiery than Vivienne Leigh could ever hope for. Still, while we were 14 and spending the humid Summer days masturbating in the woods, we were always jealous of those Russian lads. They grew up with hot, loose Russian girls.
Because our girls at that age look like this:

girl with braces

Don’t get me wrong. If I were 13 I’d be all about the chick with the braces. But here’s the rub: Russian girls hit puberty at six or seven years old. Wendy up there is great, but look at what 14 year-old Russian boys had to fool around with:

hot russian girls

Wouldn’t you feel cheated? I did.

Of course, when you get older this causes its own problems. A couple of weeks ago I brought a Russian girl home with me from a bar. Wouldn’t you know she was wearing Hello Kitty panties. Not ironically. We had a good conversation about Sanrio products once I got her to put her clothes back on. Here’s where my first suggestion comes in: Russian girls need a born on date.

Look, I’m no fan of the Budweiser. I think it’s weak and smells worse than old piss when it’s dried into your hair. But the Budweiser folks had a great idea in that born on date. I propose that all Russian females be implanted with an RFID tag indicating when they were born. A simple scanner would’ve helped prevent me from almost tapping jailbait and I could’ve skipped to the conversation about those delightful Badtz-Maru sunglasses Sanrio makes.

Now let’s say your wallet’s fat enough to bag you that Russian babe with the smooth thighs, perky breasts, and viciously-beautiful face. You’re probably thinking you’re set with decades of the hottest sex every night, years of dumbfounded stares of appreciation from other men, and a reason for people to talk to you at cocktail parties. As the Russians mockingly told the Germans one cold winter in 1944, “Ein minuten, bitte.”

The Russian boys have it good, but you wouldn’t want to change shoes with the Russian men. Not only is there bear wrestling, the Russian mob, and the occasional polonium poisoning, but your average 27 year-old Russian woman looks something like this:

old russian woman

While your 15 year-old Russian counterpart could gloat about the “nice piece” he was fondling behind the Iron Curtain, your 30 year-old Russian compatriot is stuck in a sexless hell of dentures, swollen ankles, and saggy boobs.

The tragic irony is that when a Russian woman looks like this:

older russian woman

is when she’s finally developed a personality. Usually an interesting one at that.

So my second proposition is that the RFID tag mentioned above also include a countdown in years, days, and hours to that Russian girl’s expiration date.

For blonde Russians, the rapid decline begins at around three months out from her 27th birthday. For the brunettes, approximately one month out. Strangely, for the rare redheaded Russian lass, the expiration date is quite unpredictable, so a concrete expiration at 26 years of age is in order.
Look, I know some people will find this offensive. I too am suspicious of RFID technology, so I totally understand. But, the fact remains it’s effective. With that out of the way, it’s also the best solution for all parties involved.

American men won’t feel deceived when they’ve hit that true, manly gravitas in their late twenties where women begin to find them the most attractive, yet be saddled with Grandma Davidova for a wife. She might offer some great insights into life, but there’s much better ass to be had out there.

It’ll spare those Russian women, too. No longer will they have to deal with cheating husbands, the loss of their income when their rich American husbands leave them jobless and with no skills or money, not to mention the daily embarrassment of him seeing those crow’s feet all over her legs. No doubt when rejected by the scan she’ll return to Russia where she can find an older man more suitable for her. Preferably a 70 year-old news stand attendant with Mommy issues.

Don’t get me started on the Poles…