Kafta kebab and chicken oozie (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)
Shish Kebab House chef Reina Wer moved to the United States during the Salvadoran civil war.
Wer originally opened the restaurant with her Jordanian husband (now ex-husband) and prepares fragrant dishes and decadent desserts for her loyal clientele.
Shish Kebab House is tucked into a strip mall on Broadway Boulevard just across from Park Place Mall. The cozy and comfortable east side restaurant offers a wide variety of Jordanian and Middle Eastern dishes, an ample drink menu, and friendly, knowledgeable service.
Although many diners opt for take-out, Shish Kebab House’s dining room is pleasant enough to linger in. It’s festooned with murals and affixed with wall sconces and the ceiling is painted like a cloudy blue sky. Service is attentive although, probably due to Shish Kebab House’s brisk take-out business, the food arrives tableside at a leisurely pace.
Begin with a selection from Shish Kebab House’s extensive appetizer menu. Mediterranean standards such as hummus ($6.50) are customer favorites. The restaurant’s cumin-spiced and cilantro-studded falafel ($6.50 for four pieces) are crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, and pair deliciously with the bright, tangy tahini sauce that accompanies the dish.
Diners can also order a mazza appetizer platter ($29.49), an assortment of five small dishes similar to Turkish meze. Mazza options (which are also available a la carte) include stuffed grape leaves ($6.50), zatar pizza ($6.50), and eggplant-based baba ganoush ($6.50).
Shish Kebab House offers a plethora of main dishes, including gyros, shish kebabs, stewed dishes, specials, combinations, and more. The Super Combination #2 ($18.95), includes chicken, lamb, or beef oozie and two kafta kebabs. The oozie – rice mixed with meat – is herbed and potent, while red onions sprinkled with tangy sumac lighten the dish. The hearty lamb-and-beef kafta kebabs are served with a dill labneh sauce.
Emhalabia at Shish Kebab House (Credit: Wren Awry)
Jordan’s national dish, mensaf ($17.95) – with origins in nomadic Bedouin cuisine – consists of a choice of lamb, beef, or chicken with rice, all topped with jameed, a fermented yogurt sauce. In Jordan, mensaf is eaten on special occasions and served family style, whereas Shish Kebab House’s version is beautifully plated for one (although you can also order it for two). Tender bone-in meat is served atop golden rice and accompanied by the jameed sauce, which has a delightful, fermented funk reminiscent of French rind cheeses.
Pair your meal with a beverage from Shish Kebab House’s extensive wine, beer (try a Almaza from Lebanon or an Efes from Turkey), and mixed-drink menu. For diners who prefer their drinks non-alcoholic, options include soda, juices, coffee, and a salted yogurt drink ($3.50) available in mint, strawberry, and sweet mango.
For desert, the baklava ($3.25) is flaky and sweet, with a nutty interior and a baked honey shell. Diners looking for a lighter option would be wise to try the emhalabia ($3.25), a flan-like milk custard topped with honey and pistachios. You can also choose from vanilla or chocolate ice cream ($3.25) and Grecca cinnamon sticks ($3.75), pita tossed in a sweet cinnamon mixed and drizzled with honey.
Shish Kebab House is located at 5855 E. Broadway Blvd. and can be reached at (520) 428-1492. For more information, visit shishkebabhouseoftucson.com.