Newcomer Arlington Kabob promises “sandwiches and sweets” on the bright red sign identifying the restaurant. They have two sandwiches, steak and cheese and grilled chicken, served inside of freshly clay-tandoori-baked naan instead of the typical bread slices. They have sweets, too, baklava specifically. But chances are if you’re drawn to this eatery, it isn’t by the promise of bread-bound eats and dessert. The “Kabob” in the name is the attention-grabber and, as diners will find, rightfully so.
Many different kabobs are served here, and in platters combining two or three kabobs from the diner’s choice of chicken, beef, lamb, and seasoned ground beef. Beef and lamb here are marinated in a blend of herbs and spices, but savory meat flavors in juicy grilled kabob chunks are what leave a lasting impression. The kufta ground beef kabob is more potently seasoned, the meat mixed with cilantro and onion and seasoned, with a spiced flavor reminiscent of cinnamon. Single kabob platters range in price from $9.99 to $12.99, a two-kabob platter costs $14.99, and a three-kabob platter costs $16.99. Each platter comes with the diner’s choice of two sides, though what those sides might be can vary greatly. They’re prepared based on what vegetables are made available to the restaurant, but on any given day diners can expect the house chickpeas, in a light and slightly sweet tomato gravy. One side available on a recent visit was the restaurant’s take on the Afghan noodle soup Aush, with meatballs, rich chicken broth, and a dollop of mint yogurt sauce on top.
A vegetarian platter can be made for a mere $6.99 with the choice of two vegetable sides. Another bargain pick, and an uncommon find among area kabob spots, is the Chaplee Kabob ($8.99). Instead of cubed pieces of meat, here ground beef is formed into loose patties, broken up by bits of tomato, onion, and bright green herbs. The menu warns that the dish is spicy, and while visible pepper seeds menace from the plate the patties aren’t intimidatingly hot.
In addition to the two sides, the kabob platters come with a huge piece of char-speckled naan and rice, either plain basmati rice or “quabli-styled” for $1.50 more. The latter side of rice is fashioned after the Quabli Palou mixed-rice entrée offered here ($9.99 with beef and $11.99 with lamb). Here, small pieces of meat are mixed into rice flavored by thick strands of carrot, raisins, and almond slivers. The dish is quite popular in Afghan cuisine, and at Arlington Kabob it is downright inviting. Colors blend on the plate. Carrot and raisin sweetness meet savory meat flavors. The dried fruit, cooked vegetables, and softened almonds each have a unique texture that adds to what is ultimately a very satisfying dish.
For lighter fare, the kufta, chicken, beef, and lamb kabobs are offered as wraps ($7.99 – $10.99), packed into the naan with lettuce, tomato, onion, and yogurt sauce and served with a bag of chips.
From the outset this restaurant is as unassuming as the little strip mall on Lee Highway that contains it – a dining room of black folding chairs at light-wood tables, orders placed at the counter and delivered on plastic cafeteria trays, drinks grabbed from a cooler by the door. But a meal at Arlington Kabob is as delicious as the restaurant is modest, and diners will certainly appreciate its Afghan cuisine at frill-free prices.
Arlington Kabob is located at 5046 Lee Highway, Arlington. For more information, call 703-531-1498 or visit arlingtonkabobva.com. Restaurant hours are Sunday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.