Editor’s Note: Some of my favorite lunch posts have been great lunch discoveries that slide in underneath the $7 mark. So, as a part of the ongoing evolution of the BLD Project, I’m introducing a weekly column that will feature an (Under) $7 Lunch discovery. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of all invention.
It was the sign for $1.25 pizza slices that finally got me inside Kabab & Grill. In addition to its waving pizza flag, there is neon signage listing about a half-dozen other cuisines — from the street there’s a lot going to disuade entry.
As it turns out, rather than one restaurant trying to manage around-the-world cuisine on their own, Kabab & Grill is a mini-cafeteria of independent vendors: There’s a Spanish food station, the cheap pizza station, a Mexican station and, deep in the back, a Middle Eastern station.
The whole setup is more akin to a space where a handful of street vendors rolled their productions inside and set up shop than a typical Midtown deli or cafeteria.
Back in the way, way back, at the Middle Eastern hot food station, this offer caught my eye: Your choice of rice, two vegetable sides, choice of daal (lentils) over rice, a side of naan (flat bread) for $6.50, including tax — and for $1 more you can sub in a meat option. Damn, that’s a good deal.
The food looked a fresher and more vibrant than the Spanish food station up front (yet one more deterant to digging deeper inside), so I went for it. I ordered:
— Seasoned basmati rice, topped with yellow daal, which are seasoned pretty generously with black pepper. There is a subtle heat from the lentils that sneaks up on you.
— For two vegetarian sides, I chose a sweet, marinated cauliflower and potatoes and … good okra! Not slimy at all. (Okra may actually be one of those rare vegetables that improves to the constant, low heat of buffet stations; it might dry out just a tiny bit.)
In fact, all the vegetables were well-suited to withstand the hours out on display — something more restaurants should consider when they put out zucchini or broccoli or other delicate vegetables that slowly overcook until they’re mush. I will be back — and next time, I’ll try one of the meats.
Kabob & Grill, 150 W. 36th Street, between 7th Avenue and Broadway.