The place that replaced the place that replaced the other place at the cursed location of Dartmouth Street and San Pablo Avenue in Albany seems to have caught on. Zaki’s Kebob Cafe (1101 San Pablo Avenue, Albany) offers heartfelt Middle Eastern cuisine in a lovely setting. This is a small place, but the owners have made the most of it by adding little touches. It’s a family affair, so you’ll find mom in the back cooking and her two children serving out front. Both times we went we were offered dates and greeted like old friends. Now, I am not a huge fan of the kebob and pita-bread-with-dip sector of Middle Eastern cuisine, but I do like shawarma (spit-roasted, shaved meat), which is not easy to come by in these parts, so I’ll try any new establishment that has it on the menu. On both visits I ordered the lamb shawarma wrap, which was very tasty, with plenty of flavorful and juicy meat – which they grind/shred themselves, by the way. On visit number two, we also sprang for the mixed appetizer plate, which had fabulous hummus, made from dried chickpeas, not canned, excellent felafel balls, and smoky baba ganouj (roasted egg plant dip). I find most of these kinds of dips I come across to be throw-aways, and it was nice to have some that actually tasted like something. The only unremarkable things on the plate were the dolmas, which I believe were canned, though I did not ask. My one kvetch about the place is they need to supply you with more pita bread with salads and dips. While they are very generous with the bread over time, it is kind of annoying when it is doled out one at a time when you are a party of three. This is a minor complaint, though, given how much we liked our lunches. They also serve hot dinner dishes, and offer rotisserie chicken in the evening that can be purchased whole to take home. Give this place a try and let’s end the curse! Two sandwiches and a salad will set you back about $25 before tip, and I am told that a whole chicken costs $12.
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