Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kebab Shack - Granby Street, Norfolk, VA - NOW CLOSED

Kebab Shack Exterior
The Kebab Shack or ‘K Shack’, as I now endearingly refer to it, is a new found treasure for Laine and I. Tucked away in a small spot on the 300 block of Granby, the K Shack is a narrow space that used to be a no frills deli or pizza spot. It reminds me of a small secret that you find in a large city; nothing fancy, but great cuisine.

We arrived a little after noon and the only delay was our deciding what to order. Prior to seeing the menu, I planned on ordering falafel, but after seeing the menu, I rethought my initial decision. A vegetarian sampler caught my eye. Two grape leaves, a side of hummus, babaghanoush, sheperd salad, white bean salad and Mediterranean eggplant served with pita. All sounded great...except grape leaves. To date, I am not a fan. I asked the gal at the front if I could have something else, falafel or tabouli, instead and after checking with one of the cooks, she said yes and tabouli was the replacement. Fine by me. I was excited about my choice which only set me back about $10, and that included my $1.59 soda (deal!). You place your order, pay and then either grab your soda, juice or water from the fridge or for a better deal, grab your cup (plastic dine-in or disposable take-out) and fill your own soda from the fountain. I prefer a fountain soda to canned or bottled most days, especially if you fill it yourself and refills are aplenty.
Kebab Shack dish Vegetarian Sampler
We sat ourselves in a booth and within five to six minutes, our food arrived. We ordered separately, so it came out likewise, but still within a minute or two or one another. My platter was extremely (very, very) generous and everything looked fresh and delightful. Our food was served on real dishware, which was festive and a nice change from plastic baskets, which are popular at casual lunch places. Each plate was different, some Mediterranean themed, some striped and some polka-dotted. I enjoyed the dishes as much as my meal. My hummus was full of taste and I was ecstatic, as some can be bland (another local restaurant that I do not prefer is guilty of this). This hummus had tons of flavor, as did the tabouli, white bean salad and sheperd salad, which consisted of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, red onions and Kirby cucumbers in a light olive oil vinaigrette. The pita pieces were warmed, which was another plus. Every sampling was stocked full of taste and undoubtedly fresh. When I ordered, I could not remember if I liked babaghanoush and upon trying, decided I do not, but that is no fault of the K Shack. I think I will try to substitute something for that when I order the sampler again (if they do not mind, of course). I devoured my meal, but it did not leave me feeling too stuffed, which is good since we had to go back to work. I could not believe my meal for $10! I cannot wait to go back to the K Shack and try another item on the menu, red lentil soup and the falafel pita, possibly. From the sizes of the portions, I think any of the appetizers and soup would easily constitute a meal.

We had time to refill our drinks, sit and chat after eating, which shows how fast our food arrived and how fast, and happily, we consumed it. The folks come to clear your dishes as you finish and I would too, if I were them, to get those pretty dishes back in their hands. I think Laine and I have a new spot to add to our regulars list and of course, we will report back after the next visit.

The Kebab Shack is open daily from ** to **. They will put together take-out meals as well, so grab a menu on your way out the door.

Kebab Shack Interior
On the front of their to-go menu it reads “We owe it to ourselves EAT HEALTHY”. Ah yes, I love guilt free calories. Growing up, I wasn’t served foods with any kind of interesting ethnic background or seasoning. I was raised on straight up, plain Yankee cooking: A meat, a starch, a vegetable. I didn’t have my first taco until I was about 25. I cannot recall my introduction to Mediterranean cuisine, but I have been a fan ever since. I enjoy the seasonings, flavors and combinations. In the Mediterranean lifestyle, meals are not just a time to eat, they are festive gatherings of family and friends. The food is the centerpiece, meant to be shared and savored. In my experience, Mediterraneans are always very proud of what they put on the table. Compliments are welcome (and expected). Complaints or dislikes on the other hand, I have learned are best kept to yourself.

Lucky for me, no complaints on our visit yesterday. First thing I noted was that the staff was very friendly. There is an open counter looking directly into the kitchen. A couple of kitchen staff said hello along with the counter girl. I was hungry and everything looked so good. I settled on a Schawarma pita; a mixture of lamb and beef seasoned with Mediterranean spices and grilled on a rotisserie Skewer. These come topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, shredded red cabbage and a garlic white sauce. In addition, I ordered White Bean Salad, which caught my eye. You might expect them to have a gyro, but don’t look for one on the menu. It isnt’ there. No worries, there are plenty of other options.
Kebab Shack dish White Bean Salad
The food arrived in a timely manner. Even though you are given a number when ordering, if they aren’t busy, they will carry your food out to you. Nice touch. The food was so delicious. I have already done some research and made notes on how to duplicate the White Bean Salad. It was so good! The Schawarma was very tasty. I was a little disappointed in the quality of the pita used. The flavor was fine, but it didn’t hold up to the different liquids of the sauce and vegetables very well. Not that it fell apart, it didn’t, but it got limp and rather unstable. I notice that the side servings of pita were different, and looked like they would have better served the sandwich too. It came with a little side of something green that I couldn’t quite figure out. It smelled of cilantro to me, so I dumped a dollop on my pita. Why would anyone in their right mind do that? After a big bite I quickly determined it was H-O-T. Note to self: Do not do that again.
Kebab Shack Schwarma
Our friend Brianna* joined us again, ordering the same sandwich as me, with a Baba Ghanoush side. I think I ate more of her Baba Ghanoush than she did. I loved it. I agree with Alex that it is a little different that what I have had in the past, but I really enjoyed it. Kebab Shack Baba GhanoushAll pitas are $5.99 or you can get them as a wrap for $6.99, adding a dollar to all for Beef Kabab. They don’t have any side accompaniment; fries, side salads, etc. are a la carte, ranging from 2.99 to 3.99. This will make your average sandwich meal around $10, plus a drink. Kebab platters are probably a better “deal” at $7.99 - $8.00 for most, coming with a small salad, rice and pita bread. Considering that everything is fresh and made there, I find the prices very reasonable. Portions are generous. I recommend you check it out! For a limited time, all TCC students receive 10% off with a valid ID.


Kebab Shack
319 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
Mon-Thur 10:30AM-10PM
Fri-Sat 10:30AM-2AM
Sun 12PM-10PM

Kebab Shack on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dog-n-Burger - Norfolk, VA

Dog-n-Burger Interior
Alex and I have a list of all local restaurants that we pull out whenever we are uninspired about where to eat lunch. It has been a while, but last week the list came out. We narrowed our options down from 2-3 choices to Dog-n-Burger. Sometimes you just want a good hot dog (if you're a carnivore like me). Alex has been several times, but this was going to me my first venture to this Ghent staple. I have driven past it too many times to count, and it is always fairly busy. Since on street parking is often difficult, I felt fortunate to snag a spot near the corner of 20th Street.

Dog-n-Burger Coke Machine
Dog-n-Burger is in no way fancy, and that's exactly how it should be. There is a vintage coke machine greeting you at the entrance for some reason. The line was short, only two girls ahead of us, but one of the girls managed to make ordering as complicated and lengthy as possible. Once up, I placed the uncomplicated order of a #2 Beef Dog Combo, which is a 1/4 lb. "Hebrew National" beef hot dog, fries and large drink for $4.25. Nice price! You have to pay for drink refills, which irks me. Restaurants pay pennies for fountain drinks. Gimme a break. The menu offers the kind of variety you would expect: Hot Dogs, Burgers, Gyros/Pita, Philly Cheesesteak, and several "BBQ" options. If you are up for it, you can get a full rack of ribs with two rolls and two sides for $17.99.

I moved on down the line and quickly received my order. Orders are served in a brown bag, with the sandwich/dog/burger wrapped in waxed paper. As I said, not fancy. The similarity in packaging gave me a momentary Doumar's flashback.Dog-n-Burger Patio We opted for outdoor seating in their covered patio area, as there was a semi-cool breeze and they have overhead fans. They have additional outdoor seating in a fenced in area, featuring picnic tables with festive red and white umbrellas. The hot dog was excellent. They offer a good number of toppings, but I settled on the classic combination of mustard and relish. I also loved their Crinkle fries. They had just the right amount of crisp. Not a bad way to spend a lunch hour.
Dog-n-Burger dish Hot Dog and Fries
If you know me, you know one of my favorite places in town is No Frill Grill. Those geniuses also own Dog-n-Burger, a small hamburger and hot dog joint near 21st Street in Ghent. People always ask me, “What in the world do you eat at DnB?” since I am a vegetarian. Well, I will tell you. They have a veg burger and also a veg pita. The pita is very similar, if not the same, as the veg pita at Frill. This pita is also featured at the Stockley Gardens Art Festival, but under a different brand. Lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, shredded cheese and pepper Parmesan sauce are wrapped in a warm pita. I requested the sauce on the side, but this was a mistake. Have it just as it is normally served, otherwise, it is slightly dry. I added a side of coleslaw to my wrap and that coleslaw somehow ended up on top of my wrap. I said side but the gent who took my order put it in the wrap (weird). It did not ruin it, but I asked for my side after I discovered what had occurred. I want what I ordered. I did not order a soda because there are no refills and they put a lot of ice in the cup which says ‘rip off’ to me.
Dog-n-Burger dish vegetarian pita
Started in 1969, DnB is a step back in time with the old Coke machine and the diner style napkins, which are actually terrible, but you let it go here. Laine and I decided to sit outside in the shade, which is a lot less cramped as the inside. I had to keep my paper bag and napkins from flying away in the breeze, but all in all, I enjoyed myself. I know what to do next time (get my sauce on the pita) or try the veg burger and try one of the Brownies by Sheila. DnB has chocolate and blonde brownies that look out of sight. An evening or two, I have walked up to DnB and ordered the cheese fries. Now, in another entry I complain about cheese whiz style cheese, but actually, it goes on these fries quite well (and is what DnG serves on its cheese fries) and when you can eat for $5-6, can you really complain? If a dish is over $6 and comes with cheese whiz, I am not as forgiving.

Dog-n-Burger is open 11am-9pm Monday through Saturday, but note they close at 8pm most winter days. I found this out when I showed up at 7:55pm and the guys look quite annoyed but still served me.


2001 Manteo Street
Norfolk, VA

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

456 Fish - Norfolk VA

456 Fish Logo
The walk down Granby Street feels longer when it is 100 degrees out and sunny. Tuesday was the first day 456 Fish was open for lunch and we wanted to check it out. They had a musician and hostess standing out front in the heat trying to attract attention and get diners to come inside. They were both really peppy and friendly, regardless of the weather. When we first entered, right after the noon hour, there were only 3-4 tables seated. By the time we left, they were fairly full.

The interior is modern and calming, using dark wood on the walls and a running water room divider to add to the ambiance. It was a cool oasis on a hot summer day. I was mildly disappointed in the lunch menu. Nothing really grabbed by attention. I think the salad choices are very pedestrian. I suppose they are famous for their potato chip crusted Crab Cake, but I wasn’t really in the mode for a $14 sandwich. I settled on the Chicken Panini with caramelized red onions, Manchego cheese and sweet basil aioli on Foccacia Grilled for $8.99. Sandwiches come with a pickle and choice of one side. White Truffle Potato Salad sounded good to me, so I added that to the order. My beverage of choice was un-sweet tea. They gain some serious points on their tea. It was good and strong. It was cold too. You know how some places have just made their tea and it is still hot, melting all your ice? Drives me nuts! This tea was perfect and the server kept it coming. My glass was never empty.
456 Fish dish Chicken Panini
The sandwich was good. The chicken was plentiful and very tender. They were very light handed with the Manchego cheese and Aioli. I appreciated it with the Aioli, but would have like a tad more cheese. I noticed they had hearty portion sizes on all the orders coming out of the kitchen. The potato salad was excellent, and beautifully presented.

I liked 456 Fish and will go back, but I’d like to see them jazz up their salad menu first. Salads range from $6.49-10.99, sandwiches from $6.99-13.99 and Entrees are $9.99-13.99.


Finally, another formerly nighttime-only restaurant open for lunch! I saw the sign as I drove home one day and our friend, Brianna, saw an email advertising lunch at 456 Fish starting July 6th. We arrived on the first day of the new meal time and were seated quickly. The restaurant was not full, but almost half of the tables filled by the time we ordered. I have been to 456 during dinner just a few times and while the food was decent, I thought some was overpriced (three scallops for $13 seems high when that is all you get, as in not even some greens). I went in ready for an overpriced lunch. Lucky for me in my prepare for the worst, hope for the best thinking, 456 surprised me. The menu was quite reasonable, but I was slightly dismayed at the lack of dishes without meat or seafood. Most restaurants in any decent sized city have a couple of dishes that consist of only vegetables. 456 Fish dish Baked Grilled Cheese SandwichThe only options on 456 Fish’s menu were a caprese salad and a baked grilled cheese. I worried that the salad would not be substantial, so I went with the grilled cheese. Sandwiches come with your choice of side, such as fries, pasta salad and a few others. I chose the green beans because I needed to have something green on my plate. They do have a crab cake, tilapia, a turkey sandwich and some other fare.
Our food did not take long and while the three cheeses in the grilled cheese made it more flavorful than your everyday version, the bread was not crispy, actually a little too un-grilled. The green beans were cooked to perfection and hopefully, countered some of the cheese in my meal. I hope they branch out a little on the menu...a vegetable panini or pasta primavera possibly? You can do so many different things with vegetables. Our waitress seemed on cloud nine, but was friendlier as the meal went on. She was cognisant of refilling our beverages and I would rather have someone who scores high on attentiveness and seems out there than someone who acts like they are listening and leaves you stranded with an empty glass the entire meal.
I will go again, but I do hope they make some additions to the menu. My sandwich was under $10 and that did please me.

456 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 53510

456 Fish on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Croakers - Virginia Beach, VA

Croakers Interior
My favorite thing about Croaker’s is the sign out front. It still says “Don’t forget 9/11” and has ever since, well, 9/11. I know that statement doesn’t forebode well for their food, but it is the truth. I have eaten there at least a half dozen times and have never left raving or complaining about the food. Ambiance is a big part of it. Croakers is small. The main dining room is like a galley, with two smaller rooms branching off. The décor is a little ridiculous. My 6 year old loves it, if that tells you anything. However, it is always crowded and usually there is a line with a wait, so not everyone is as blasé as I am.

Croakers parkingTuesday night we had 6:30 reservations, and that was a good thing. The wait was already 45 minutes. They get a decent sized crowd early on from senior citizens who inhabit the multitude of condominiums up and down Shore Drive and like to eat at 5pm. (Please note: I am not making fun of them. I am jealous. I want to be retired and live on the beach. I already prefer eating dinner early.) Their parking is sparse. We lucked out and grabbed a spot behind an employee who posted a sign on his/her bumper letting you know it was okay to block him in. Thanks Buddy! Without that we would have been on the side street somewhere.

Once seated it was pretty obvious that the servers were slammed. We had a nice, beachy/surfer type guy who knew his stuff and did a good job without appearing to be ruffled. It took a bit longer than normal to get our meals. Since I had not yet had a Softshell crab and they are almost out of season, I decided to try theirs. The server recommended sautéed, and I concurred. My husband got the same. My brother ordered the mixed grill and my mother the broiled flounder. They have a kids menu, with most entrées priced at $7.99, a little on the pricey side. Otherwise, they are not really kid friendly, offering no crayons, etc., to entertain your child. Come prepared.

I think that my mother out ordered us all. Her flounder was the best looking flounder I have seen in a long time. It was almost an inch thick, perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was a very large portion, of which at least half went back home with her.
Croakers dish Mixed GrillMy brother’s mixed grill looked a little well done to me. He agreed that he likes his Tuna and Salmon a bit more on the rare side too, but assure me that it was not dry, and was quite good. The Softshells arrived covered in a sauce. Not what I expected to see. Since it was a special item, no preparation notes were on their specials board, and none were given when we ordered. As we ate them we could not discern the contents of the sauce. Croakers dish Soft Shell CrabFinally I asked the server and was told it was their special house sauce and he rolled off the ingredients. The primary ingredients were butter, flour, garlic and some other herbs/spices. It’s not that the sauce was bad per se; I just wish it had not been on the crab. It overwhelmed the flavor and robbed some crispiness from the texture. So, as usual, the dish was not bad, but I cannot rave about how good it was. Softshells and Mixed Grill were both 20.99, the Flounder was 22.99.

On a final note, they have great cornbread. It is sweet, which I like, and very moist. Make sure you try it if you are a cornbread fan.


3629 Shore Dr
Virginia Beach, VA 23455
(No Website)

Dog-n-Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Omar's Carriage House-Norfolk, VA

Omar's Carriage House Exterior
Omar’s Carriage House has been around for over ten years. Omar also owns Voila, Omar’s Fountain Cafe at Town Point Park and the Pagoda Restaurant. I have been the Carriage House once during restaurant week, once during his tenth anniversary, when he offered 10 for $10 (ten entrees all priced at $10 and $10 bottles of wine that you could cork and take home) and a few other times.

Omar’s is tucked down Bute Street, close to the downtown YMCA. It is a very cute, historic building that was once exactly what the name suggests, a carriage house that was home to horses, carriages, tack and hay. Sitting on the first floor allows you a look at the drop doors in the ceiling above where the hay was stored and dropped into the carriages. There is history section on Omar’s website that chronicles the building’s use. The decor is casual chic and comfortable. I enjoy sitting downstairs for day meals as it is brighter, while the upstairs is suited more to dinner with a darker hue. I enjoyed the non-deal experiences more than the anniversary and restaurant week visits. It is always nice to feel like you are saving a few bucks, but restaurant week has been disappointing in general to me over the last few years and I feel you get a better meal, all around, on regular days and nights. If you have only been to Omar’s during one of these times, I suggest going for a regular meal. I thoroughly enjoyed brunch when I had the vegetable omelet, but the next time I visit Omar’s during brunch, I have my sights set on the California Benedict or the quiche of the day.

Laine and I had been talking about Omar’s and when a day that was not over 90 degrees arrived, we took the stroll. The panini portabella grabbed my attention this fine day, though the vegetarian lasagna looked appealing as well. I chose the panini, grilled ciabatta bread with marinated portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese. The sandwich was grilled perfectly and it was a manageable size for lunch. The Carriage House potato salad that accompanies the sandwiches is killer. It contains egg and was made with red potatoes (my favorite). Laine and I both wanted more of this creamy side.. I have had the warm spinach salad in the past and the hot cider dressing is very unique and fantastic, but this salad is not a meal salad if you are in any way hungry; it is more like an appetizer or something to share when ordering another dish.

Our server was fine until it was time to get our check and this exercise took forever. He was a quiet lad which is a plus, as I do not want a waiter that is too bubbly or talkative, but his attention seemed to wander after the food arrived.. A good ten minutes after we both had finished, we finally approached the bar and asked him for the checks. Omar’s is a little bit of a walk for us and we still had to journey back and.were watching the clock. Laine and I always say we are going to ask for the checks as the food arrives to quicken payment, which seems to always be the time hiccup, but we often forget this tactic once we get seated in a restaurant. We start having a good time and forget we are on a schedule. We finally paid and were on our way, but it took entirely too long to get our checks (and we had to fetch them). I enjoyed my meal and will go back, but will be cognisant to ask for the check after the food arrives to not incur the delay we experienced at the tail end of this meal. My sandwich was $7.95 which is reasonable for lunch.

The Carriage House also caters and is the house caterer on the American Rover. I organized an event on the Rover a few years ago and the food was phenomenal. I remember Omar’s having a good selection and both the Rover crew and the catering contact being very accommodating. Laine and I will visit Omar’s Fountain Cafe and report back when the temperature drops again. Its a little too steamy to sit in the blazing sun at Town Point Park during lunch.


I had been wanting to try Omar’s Carriage House for a while. Upon entering the building I discovered my instincts were right on. I loved the funky, artistic feel of the interior. Everywhere you turn there is something interesting on the wall, or ceiling. I had already perused the online lunch menu and knew what I wanted to order. Labeled “New!”, I was intrigued by the California Grilled Chicken Sandwich, consisting of chicken breast, guacamole and Havarti cheese on Sour Dough bread with pesto mayo and fresh tomato, served with a side of Carriage House potato salad. I love guacamole, Havarti is my favorite cheese, and pesto is another favorite of mine. Unfortunately, the in house menu did not match the online menu. This “new” sandwich, was no longer available. Grumble.... I have come across this blunder now with several restaurants. It’s 2010 people. Keep your online information current. After some discussion in the kitchen, our waiter determined that the sandwich could be served as they had all the ingredients available.

The sandwich arrived looking as delicious as I thought it would. After a couple of bites, I knew something was missing. The pesto mayonnaise was MIA. As Alex mentions, our server also went MIA after delivering our meals, so I never had the opportunity to ask him to bring out the mayonnaise, or refill my drink. The potato salad is very good, and the sandwich was good too, it just would have been better with pesto mayonnaise.

The restaurant filled up while we were there. During our lunch I noted that the clientele leaned more towards the senior citizen demographic. I’m not sure if that is the norm, or an anomaly of that particular day. Lunch prices are very reasonable, with most sandwiches ranging from $7-8. There is also a $3.95 half sandwich and a $14.95 crab cake sandwich. On cooler days, it would be the perfect spot for some soup and a sandwich. We will be back.


Omar’s is located at 313 West Bute Street and is open daily for lunch and dinner and brunch on the weekends.
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