• Mike Sula
  • Lamb and beef koubideh kabob, Kabobi

The late and once-great Albany Park Lebanese restaurant Al-Khaymeih shuttered amid a rancorous legal dispute between the two brothers who owned it. It came back briefly in ’12, but was so catastrophically bad I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. Not long ago it died again, quietly this time, remarked upon by no one.

Someone once told me time is a flat circle, so, with respect to the address at least, it shouldn’t surprise me that its successor has opened because of a rancorous legal dispute between brothers. It was just over a year ago that Reza Toulabi, owner of the three properties upon which the venerable Persian minichain Reza’s sits, sued his brother Joseph, owner of the restaurants themselves, claiming Joseph had threatened to kill him and burn down the joints over a back rent dispute.

Joseph, aka Joe, regrouped, and it’s good news for this stretch of Kedzie Avenue, which in recent years has seen its once proud coterie of Middle Eastern restaurants steadily degrade—that’s except for the Persian Noon-O-Kabob, whose success endures long after it became the poster child for the Check, Please! effect. As the only other Persian restaurant in the neighborhood, Toulabi’s Kabobi Grill is challenging Noon-O-Kabob’s hegemony with a tightly focused menu of massive kabob-and-rice platters.

There’s something aesthetically royal in the arrangement of these trenchers. A round aluminum tray is lined with thin lavosh, upon which a pair of long kabobs, ranging from ground sirloin, to ground lamb, chicken or turkey breast, filet mignon, or salmon, repose beside an insurmountable mound of white or dill rice mixed with fava beans, a split grilled tomato, and a foil-wrapped pat of putter. It’s a tremendous amount of food for a small outlay, ranging from $8.95 to $10.95, with a 95-cent up charge for sides of roasted red pepper or cilantro tahini, or cucumber yogurt.

It’s mostly about the platters at Kabobi, evidenced by the tables full of Toulabi adherents that camp out, languidly working their way through them amid long and animated conversation. But there are a few other entrees, like whole tomato-braised lamb shanks and bowls of ghormeh sabzi, a lemony spinach, kidney bean, and beef stew, plus a few salads and familiar Levantine appetizers like falafel, hummus, and baba ghanoush. But if you’re going that route stick with the strictly Persian kashkeh bodemjan (or, more often, kashk e bademjan), a sumptuous mash of roasted eggplant and caramelized onions enriched by reconstituted dried yogurt ($5.95).

Likewise, in terms of sweets, the neighborhood has no shortage of baklava purveyors, but you don’t often see bamieh, churro-like, rosewater-scented doughnuts. They’re sweet and as airy as a down pillow ($2.25 a pair).

Kabobi Grill, 4748 N. Kedzie, 773-583-1400