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Posts from the ‘Gravesend’ Category


1/2 The “We don’t have any tables this evening unless you made reservations” spiel I was given at 6:30pm the Saturday before Tanoreen was reviewed in the New York Times, kind of threw me. Ok, bye. I wasn’t going to be Minetta Taverned in Bay Ridge. As much as Sripraphai, too, has grown to attract diners beyond the immediate neighborhood (also to the point of impenetrability on weekend nights) I like that they’ve maintained a first come first served policy and are unlikely to start offering valet parking.

But I wanted a bunch of mezzes still. We’d parked in front of Sally & George’s, but I didn’t know if they were going to cut it or not. Maybe I am missing out, I just wasn’t taking any more chances that evening. Off to Coney Island Avenue, home of Sahara and the most unlikely billboard advertising campaign that actually worked on me.

Sahara exteriorThis is really the domain of Previously on Sahara, but before I had any inkling that I would be living on the corner of Fourth Place and Henry Street, I used to drive past a giant Sahara ad along the BQE, just a block south from where I now reside. From a distance the meat on a spit (poorly photographed plastic rendition on the façade of the restaurant pictured) looked like an ice cream sundae, at closer range, a meat sundae (just yesterday I read about the existence of a barbecue sundae—nothing to do with Middle Eastern food yet intriguing, right?). After countless billboard drive-bys, I eventually had to see what Sahara was all about for myself.

Sahara cold appetizers

But really, my favorite things at Sahara have nothing to do with meat. The small cold appetizer platter (there is a selection of warm items, too, but I was trying to avoid an abundance of fried food) a.k.a. karisik meze tabagri is only $9.50 and contains hummus, baba ghanoush, eggplant spread, potato salad, fried eggplant, lebne (garlic yogurt and walnuts), tabule and a stuffed grape leaf. All their English spellings. Paired with the warm rounds of Turkish bread, it could easily be a standalone meal. Even shared, it’s substantial.

Sahara beyti kebab

I also ordered one of the many lamb plus rice dishes, the beyti kebab, lightly spiced ground meat mixed with parsley and onion. There are seven other ways to enjoy lamb on the menu, as well as a page devoted to chicken and another to seafood. It has never occurred to me to try a whole sea bream or sword fish kebabs.

Leaving with leftovers, too full for dessert, I did stop by the front takeout counter and picked out two pieces of baklava to go. They didn’t even charge me. Really? Service is not what big and bustling Sahara is known for, so this small gesture stood out. I couldn’t picture a circumstance where Tanoreen would offer me pastries on the house.

Sahara * 2337 Coney Island Ave., Brooklyn, NY


I never thought I’d attend a party walking distance to Sahara but that’s the benefit of a boyfriend who works with numerous non-American-born folks. Hipsters, god bless them, don’t live in Gravesend. (While it’s fun to try Ukrainian food—cabbage turnovers, caviar crepes and imported smoked ham—it’s not so fun to play board games with Eastern Europeans. It reminded me of how no one would let me and my sister play on the same Pictionary team because we thought too much alike. At this beer tasting party, they had some random game called Apples to Apples, which is totally subjective, hence, hard to play with foreigners. People didn’t know what the Challenger explosion was but agreed on nonsensical things like a Hiroshima being Spicy. They also all knew about some game called Puerto Rico, which sounds made up to me, but then, my mom had been going on about a game called Mexican Train which I thought was bullshit and it turned out to be real.)

I would have no idea what Sahara even was if it weren’t for the giant billboard ad that used to be stationed a block from my apartment. It’s not a destination restaurant, the service is nearly non-existent (though I do like the water pitcher on every table—I’d rather help myself than be at the mercy of fickle waiters) but the food is fairly good. I would get take out from the bustling front counter all the time if it were in my neighborhood.

Wedged amongst the middle-aged Jewish families, large Arabic parties, petite tracksuited women with abnormally large breasts, and young Brooklyn girls (we were sandwiched by two groups of them who kept shooting the other table dirty looks) who share salads and dips and shun the bread, I felt conspicuous snapping photos. Please excuse the blur.

On this visit, we kept it simple with a shared fried eggplant dish from the cold side of the appetizer list. One of Sahara’s selling points is their freshly baked Turkish bread that I think is called pide (sounds like pita, but is nothing like the thin pockets most people are familiar with). I also had the adana kebab (it’s really hard for me to not say Adama. Wow, I just made a totally unnecessary Battlestar Galactica reference, which is why this is called Project Me rather than Very Informative Restaurant Critiques) which is lightly spiced ground lamb that’s been formed around skewers like logs, then grilled. Most entrees come with rice, herby onions and a char grilled tomato and surprisingly hot long green pepper. Everyone seems to order the feta-laced salad. We didn’t but will likely give in on our next Sahara excursion.

I love how the “Sultan of all Kebabs” has his fez-topped mug plastered everywhere including the tiles on every tabletop.

The giant, glowing meat sundae (see 1/16/05 entry for explanation) beckons all who pass by

The next evening I caught Head-On on cable, a film about two suicidal Turks living in Germany. (On the edible angle, they do mention kebabs and raki.)  I had wanted to see this when it came out a couple years ago but it had a limited run and last year when I remembered it at Blockbuster, someone had already rented it. Despite all the foulness and initially unlikable characters, it’s really about love, sad love. I saw two movies Saturday where a mismatched couple vows to meet and run away together and one member chickens out. That’s always bothered me. But then, I guess these films wouldn’t be alluringly tragic if people found happiness running off on buses and trains for something unknown and potentially better.

So, DVR Head-On, grab some kebabs to go, invite Ukrainians over for board games and beer drinking and see what shapes up. (11/20/06)

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