ALEXANDRIA,VA- Tanger House Kabob Café is a quirky little restaurant in a strip mall in Alexandria. The room is filled with booths and tables, many of them bar height. Those high tables are the perfect perch to eat your meal, have a drink, and listen to great live music offered on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s definitely a place where you can bring kids or just come alone for a meal and enjoy the music. With a plethora of menu options, you can find something for everyone in your group. They have a wonderful collection of vegetarian and vegan menu items, not just salad and beans. If you need something special to match your dietary needs, the chefs are willing to help. It’s the kind of place you go with your daughter for her to make her performance debut on the stage in the corner of the restaurant.
Be sure to check out the blackboard at the back of the restaurant for the drink specials of the day. We tried the freshly made Raspberry Peach daiquiri, a tall glass of fruity cooling delight. The daiquiris feature the fresh fruit of the season. Be careful, though – these pack a punch. There’s also a good selection of wine, beer, and traditional mixed drinks.
Start your meal with one of the delicious appetizers straight out of this Middle Eastern kitchen. Offerings range from hummus to baba ghanoush to stuffed grape leaves. We started with a fresh, fresh, fresh salad lightly tossed with olive oil. It was just enough to freshen our palates in preparation for the main event. We were not disappointed when the Super Falafel landed on the table, loaded with an excellent selection of appetizers.
The hummus was made with mashed chickpeas and extra virgin olive oil is fresher and tastier than anything you can buy in the store. Even better was the baba ghanoush, made with mashed roasted eggplant, tahini, and garlic, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. That’s my favorite. The tabbouleh was a vegetarian’s dream of fine chopped parsley with tomatoes, mint, onion, burghul, and again – seasoned with olive oil. It was so fresh, each grain and veggie bursting out, demanding a place in the flavorful mix.
Falafel was as good as any I have found in the area. Made with deep fried mashed chickpeas, it deserves its own star on the appetizer walk of fame. Grape leaves filled with lemon and spice tinged rice infused with white wine are just what you want on a hot evening. The cool combination of vegetal grape leaves with the lemony filling is a perfect balance, and the platter was topped off with bright julienned carrots and beets, lightly seasoned a vinaigrette.
Bring on the entrees! There are lots of individual kabobs to choose from, so if you can’t decide, order the Full Mix Grill like we did. The platter is overflowing with chunks of Mediterranean-style seasoned marinated lamb sharing space with seasoned, marinated chunks of beef chunks, both fresh off the grill, plus juicy golden chicken marinated in turmeric and house spices, and kofta – a sausage-like combination lamb and beef with Moroccan spices baked and finished on the grill. They all scream to be dipped in the garlic sauce and eaten. You may have to ask for more of that spicy sauce, because it is so good! The platter includes a turmeric-tinged, pilaf-style rice that was not nearly enough to satisfy everyone and delicious grilled seasonal veggies. A chunk of any of the meats, topped with some rice, veggies, spicy garlic sauce, and wrapped in the warm pita makes for a perfect bite.
The Seafood Platter is another way to enjoy the many fish and seafood offerings as it is piled high with grilled salmon, Moroccan-style marinated grilled shrimp, fresh grilled sardines, breaded fried oysters, and calamari. It’s served with a mountain of salad of tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, cured Moroccan olives, green pepper, cilantro, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Okay, I see some of you are cringing at the thought of sardines. These are fresh, not the salty, fishy, oily stuff that comes in tins. Try one with a squeeze of lemon but be cautious of the bones. The shrimp and salmon are delightfully marinated and grilled to just the right doneness. The breaded oysters and calamari were coated in a well-seasoned batter and grease free. Just squirt some lemon on the whole mess and dig in.
Not into kabobs? There’s lot more on the menu. There is a variety of sandwiches and burgers, including great vegetarian/vegan options like the Sam Veggie Burger of eggplant, red and green peppers, and zucchini. Soups include Moroccan-style lentil soup and a tomato-based Harira soup. The Tanger Red Salad is a rich red salad with tomato, beets, green pepper, red pepper, cucumber, red onion, lemon, parsley, garlic, with balsamic vinaigrette. There are chef specialties like the Kabob Beef Tenderloin Burgundy made with beef tenderloin marinated in burgundy served with asparagus. the Kabob Chicken Marsala is a Chicken kabob marinated in marsala wine and served with mushrooms. Try the Lamb Shank made with roasted lamb in a Moroccan sauce, served with yellow rice and vegies or the Moroccan merguez sausage serve with marinara sauce.
When all is said and done, Tanger Kabob is a comfortable, neighborhood watering hole where you can leave happily satisfied.
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