The Arabic word for generosity, “كرم,” or “karam,” is also the name of a newish Albany Park Middle Eastern spot in the strip-mall home of the equally wonderful Sahar Meat Market and Jaafer Sweets—all at the northern end of a string of historically treasured Kedzie Avenue Levantine and Persian businesses. But while the Persian Noon-O-Kabob and Kabobi Grill are thriving, Arabic spots like Salam and Semiramis have had ups and downs over the years. Long gone is the golden age of the late, great Shawerma King, so when something new opens there’s cause for optimism.
Karam Grill opened last spring just in time for Ramadan, when they threw down an epic $19.99 iftar buffet, which I won’t sleep on again. Taco Scholar Titus Ruscitti was the one who first motivated me to get in there, and as with most of the places he champions, his enthusiasm wasn’t misplaced.
Others have cheered Karam Grill’s shawerma, but that’s not what got me excited. The plate I was served was in fact a generous pile of shaved beef alongside an enormous portion of rice that absorbed the beefy fluids, with a shockingly fresh tomato-cucumber salad, both of which I attacked with more passion than the protein. The kufta and beef and chicken kebabs on the mixed grill stood up to the heat much better.
I’ve been more impressed with the mezze I’ve tried than anything else: vegetarian stuffed grape leaves so lemony you’ll squint; salty, par-melted squares of fried Nabulsi cheese; extrasmoky, coarsely blended baba ghanoush. Still more compelling is the catering menu, which offers a whole stuffed roasted lamb and less common dishes like mansaf, a Jordanian dish of nutty, yogurt-drenched rice and lamb, and maqluba, an inverted casserole of rice and meat. A few of these may occasionally show up as specials. Otherwise there’s always next Ramadan.
Karam Grill, 4849 N. Kedzie, 773-942-6300, karamgrills.com