Food versus Food: Skewered

Over the holidays, an old friend of mine came into town and we decided to get together and catch up.  On the appointed day, I found myself at work late - so we exchanged a flurry of text messages that went something like this:

Me: Work is slower than I thought. Re location... in a coffee mood? Pub mood?
Him: No preference, and I'm not working, so entirely up to you! I'll be at the ready. Just let me know what you're feeling in the stomach region.
Me: Ok :-) Will text you soon
passage of time. some intense thought.  some work, of course.
Me: How about Maiwand Kabob?
Me: Or pub? (Kelseys or Michaels)
Him: First instinct is usually best when it comes to food.

Insightful point.  He was right.  

Meals like the ones at Maiwand encompass many of the things I like about food: good spices, a grill, interesting flavors.  Vegetable curry and chicken tikka masala are recent appearances in my own kitchen, so the flavors are still pretty different from what I'm used to.

Maiwand, which serves Afghani-style kabobs, has been my local go-to place in the past, but I was eager to expand my kabob-horizons. So, after my friend and I enjoyed our dinner, I went in search of another spot. (hocoblogs@@@)

The logical conclusion might have MiMi's Kabob in Clarksville, which has been featured on HowChow, since they also serve Afghan-style food; however, I wanted to see a slightly different take on the whole meat--cooked-on-a-stick. I ended up at Turkshish Kebap, formerly Cazbar Kebap House, which bills itself as serving Mediterranian cuisine with Turkish influence.

Which brings us to our contenders....

Contender #1: Chicken Shish Kebap (sandwich) at Turkshish Kebap (with fries).

Turkshish Kebap is located at 10840 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia.  It's a casual place with a walkup counter and a few tables.  I thought it was a nice casual - the sort of place you go for good food and minimal fuss.  The area behind the counter is pretty open, enough that you can watch the staff preparing your food.  

I opted for the chicken shish kebap, which comes as a sandwich ($8.00) or a platter ($11.00).  The sandwich is basically a wrap with chunks of marinated chicken, lettuce, onion, and tomato, and a tangy sauce.  A yogurt sauce (think tzatziki) comes on the side, along with the choice of rice or fries.

The rice looked good.  Really it did.  I wish I had tried it.  But I had had a rough day and really wanted fries, which came crispy, hot, and dusted with a nice seasoned salt.  Don't judge.  They were awesome.

Chicken Shish Kebap sandwich with fries at Turkshish Kebap.
Well.... half of it.

The sandwich was ready in about ten minutes (the time it took to grill the chicken and assemble).  My first impression?  Tasty but chewy.

I really liked the flavor of the sauce on the sandwich, and the vegetables had a nice crunch - great texture in the sandwich.  Still, for several bites I couldn't figure out why the chicken was so rubbery.  Then I realized that the chicken was fine - it was the bread, what they called homemade pita bread on the menu.  It reminded me of a tortilla - nice flavor, but chewy.

The chicken itself was flavorful and tender, though the spice was pretty mild.  It's hard to see tucked away in the wrap, but the marinade/spices made the chicken a nice light orange color.  I promise that in this case, orange chicken is a good thing.  

The yogurt sauce was good but not really necessary - it's something I'd want if I was eating something pretty spicy, to temper the heat.  

In terms of serving size, this was definitely enough.  I really enjoyed this meal, and look forward to trying some of the other menu items on later visits.

Contender #2: Chicken Kabob at Maiwand Kabob (with naan, rice, salad).

Maiwand Kabob has two locations, one at 5467 Harpers Farm Road in Columbia, and one in ElkridgeLinthicum Heights.  I usually go here when I know I have time to sit, wait, and eat.  It takes a while, but fresh naan is hard to beat.

Maiwand has a walkup counter and tables.  It's nothing fancy, expect paper/styrofoam plates and plasticware, but the decor is warm and pleasant.

I went with the Chicken Kabob on my last visit - one skewer of chicken that comes with vegetables, salad, rice, naan, and chutney, for $8.99.  Ask for extra chutney (+$0.25).  It's quite tasty.

Chicken Kabob at Maiwand Kabob in Columbia.
Extra chutney not pictured.

I really loved the bright color and flavor of the chicken.  A little spicy, with some char from the grill, the pieces were juicy and tender.  The vegetables - a few pieces of onion and a wedge of tomato, dusted with a spice I couldn't figure out - could have used similar treatment - just a quick flirt with the grill for some sweetness and flavor. The onion was pretty much raw, but not in a way that added to the chicken.  

The salad was crisp, fresh, and gave color to the plate.  I added a drizzle of chutney.  Srsly, that stuff is good.  

The naan literally came out of the oven and onto the paper plate/my table.  It was fresh, hot, crunchy in some places and soft in others.  The rice was seasoned with cinnamon, and possibly some other spices.

I came to Maiwand hungry, and left stuffed - that day, dinner time came and went and I had no real desire to eat.  Definitely enough food, and definitely delicious.

The Decision:  This was a pretty difficult call (as many of these seem to be) - old favorite versus new treat.  One thing that did surprise me was that the flavor and spice of the chicken was pretty similar despite the differences in restaurants - Turkish/Mediterranean and Afghani.  I think the differences between Maiwand and Turkshish are probably represented better in other menu items.  

In any case I was really happy with both meals, and look forward to going again for other menu items.  But for this meal, I declare Maiwand Kabob the winner.

Do you have a favorite go-to for quick, good, unique food?  Where do your kabob loyalties lie?  Tell me in the comments below!

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