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Baba Grill

Posted by NOK 12 Jan 2010 22 Comments

This is my first contribution to Carpe Durham, and I’m afraid I’m going to set the wrong tone by reviewing a restaurant that technically is in Raleigh.  My justification of this is: (a) it is north of 540 and on the Durham side of RDU, in the part of Wake County that on the map looks like it should be Durham county, and (b) it is awesome and brings back fond memories of the late, great Durham favorite Bread and Kebab.

Baba Grill (8201 Brier Creek Pkwy) is in Brier Creek, a conglomerate just north of the airport that, in an effort to bring an urban town center feel to the middle of nowhere,  if nothing else, succeeded in replicating the traffic and congestion of a dense urban core.  I do not like going to Brier Creek, but let me assure you that it is worth the efforts of any Real Durham-ite to hop on 70 and make the trip to try Baba Grill.

exterior
It is fairly unassuming and strip-mally, like many Durham favorites, situated near one of the main entrances, but appointed with a generic sign.  The menu is dominated by standard Mediterranean fare like gyros, schwarma, etc.  Looking at the menu alone raises concerns of yet another generic Mediterranean place.  There are three reasons to look past this:

1. The lavash – an Iranian flatbread, fresh-baked for every order.  The chef rolls out a piece of dough, scores it with a roller, then tosses it in a unique clay oven for a couple of minutes.  The result?  A warm, flavorful flatbread with a crisp exterior and chewy middle.

2. The deli case.  From the deli case come amazing platters of rices, curries, and salads that barely get a mention on the big overhead menu.

3. The folks working there are super nice.

lavash

deli1

deli2

I have spent most of my time in the deli case, where you can choose either a 3 vegetable sampler for $5.95, or 1 meat and 2 vegetables (plus a rice) for the amazingly fair price of $6.95.  The only thing I have gotten so far (on multiple occasions) is the meat sampler with these options:
-lentil rice – a dark, flavorful rice and lentil combination that is topped with caramelized onions.
-chicken curry – creamy, slightly sweet, just enough spice, and tender chicken thigh meat.
-chickpea salad – chickpeas, peppers, raisins, onions in a slightly sweet vinaigrette.

This platter comes with a side of the lavash bread, and is probably perfect combination of flavors, textures, and spice.  I have enjoyed it so much, that I recently passed up pomegranate beef, and an amazing looking lamb and potato dish to get the chicken yet again.

platter

As far as I was concerned, as long as Baba Grill kept making these dishes, I would need nothing else.  But then, last time I was there, this past weekend, my wife ordered the chicken schwarma ($6.95).  Tender chicken, tart pickles, onions, some kind of a tangy sauce, all wrapped up in a freshly-baked piece of lavash bread, it was outstanding. Better than several of the other sandwiches I had tried in the past.  The fries were fairly ordinary – thin cut, but tasty.  You can also get a soup or salad on the side.

schwarma
So, I implore you, drive south, eat well, and maybe if we start dropping enough hints that they should open a Durham location, they’ll take action.

Baba Grill on Urbanspoon

22 Comments »

  • rossgrady said:

    Hey, cool! Now I know where I’m going for lunch tomorrow . . .

    I’d written off Brier Creek as 100% franchise mediocrity (well, and Azitra, but it’s not as good as Saffron, so why suffer Brier Creek?) but there’s always that day when I need to hit the Target at lunchtime.

    Thanks!

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  • Phil said:

    Oh yum. Thanks. I do very much miss Bread & Kabob.

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  • Joshua Unger said:

    Hey, great first post and I really enjoyed your review. Looking forward to trying Baba Grill…

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  • dave said:

    What is the reaction there if you ask for ketchup for your fries?

    Do they have fried kibbe?

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  • Beebs said:

    So glad to see this review — my neighbor and I went this past Monday after a trip to EarthFare and BJ’s — Baba Grill was fabulous, exactly what we needed..we stopped in around 1:30 — my friend opted for the three veg option (beets, tabouli and an eggplant dish she LOVED) and I tried the chicken kabob sandwich with salad — tasty and enormous — I took half of the sandwich home…Baba Grill was a delightful surprise in a mess of a shopping/dining zone — not a fan of Brier Creek, but it’s the closest BJ’s to Durham….

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  • Sant said:

    So now there are two Middle Eastern type joints in the Brier Creek area. Have you tried Flame Kabob on the other side near the Carolina Ale House? I wonder how the two compare. I ate at Flame Kabob once and it was fine but I prefer Baba Gannouj or Med Deli in Chapel Hill.

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  • CPA1 said:

    You forgot to mention that the portions are HUGE!!! This is a great dinner value. If you are trying to trim your budget for eating out in the new year, go to this place. My wife and I go for dinner all the time and the food has been great every time. The people who work there are super friendly, and will typically remember you after going just a couple of times. I can’t say enough great things about this place. I have never had a bad meal. The first couple of times I ordered off of the menu, but the real value is the deli case.

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  • burgeoningfoodie said:

    Seems interesting that they’d have both Mediterranean foods and foods typically associated with India. Could be a good mix.

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    TSQ75 replies on January 13th, 2010 at 5:18 pm:

    what do you see that’s typically indian? Everything i see is solidly mediterranean/middle eastern. Mediterranean is such a wide swath too, from spain and italy and france, through lebanon to morocco and tunisia…which do have curries…

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    burgeoningfoodie replies on January 14th, 2010 at 3:24 pm:

    I typically associate curries with Thailand and India. I didn’t say that the curries weren’t Mediterranean but most Mediterranean places I’ve been to don’t offer curry or I haven’t noticed it.

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    TSQ75 replies on January 14th, 2010 at 5:02 pm:

    what’s mind-boggling is the soul food places that have curries.

    but then again, bring Jamaica and trinidad (with its indian cultural influence) into the equation and it isnt so strange. to go a step further, link those afro-caribbean nation back to africa via Liberia and senegal and congo, and you see all of those influences make their way back up the continent to places like Tunisia and morocco.

    aint colonialism grand? ;)

    sorry, I just love food anthropology and creole cultures lol

  • hh876 said:

    How is the hummus? I have yet to find hummus that beats Baba Ghannouj!

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    TSQ75 replies on January 14th, 2010 at 10:02 am:

    For all its issues, i adore the hummus at ID

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  • dvsgel said:

    I agree that this place is awesome. Truly one of the best and most consistent restaurants I’ve eaten at in the Triangle. Only downside is the atmosphere, being stuck in a shopping center. The lavash is incredible, portions large, and service friendly. Hopefully they stay open for the long haul.

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  • DPR said:

    Looks great. It would definitely be awesome if they opened a Durham location. Just curious, do they have many Persian influences?

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  • veronica said:

    Have eaten here several times. Very good food!

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    veronica replies on February 8th, 2010 at 8:27 am:

    i forgot to say the service was also very good. We arrived about 15 minutes prior to closing and they did not rush us out:)

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  • wen said:

    thanks for the recommendation!

    I’ll add too that if you’re looking specifically for Afghan cuisine (to replace the sad closing of bread & kabob), and you’re willing to go to Raleigh, Village Kabob on Peace St. is worth the trip. They have the usual dishes, and also make sourdough Nan and a very good dish of Mantu (with home-made yoghurt). The owners/chefs are also very friendly.

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  • Nando said:

    I need to try this joint.

    I’ve been going to Baba Ghannouj three times a week for their shwarmas for the past month. I just love their lamb, but the chicken is great, too. I work 5 minutes away, so it’s an easy drive.

    I’m a huge middle eastern food fan, so the next time I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll stop by.

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  • Matt said:

    WE’RE SO SAD! Having been avid fans of Baba Grill for several years, my wife and I were shocked to walk in this evening to discover that it has changed into an Aladdin’s Eatery franchise. Gone is the wonderful, made-to-order lavash bread, replaced by pita from a bag. They’re currently serving from a much-reduced menu (we SO missed Baba Grill’s wonderful kebabs!), though a more extensive menu will be offered in the weeks ahead.

    We were at Baba Grill just one week ago and saw no sign of the impending change. It appears that some of the friendly staff have been retained, but the jury is out… We certainly hope Aladdin’s will be worth the drive, otherwise we’ll stay in Durham and enjoy Baba Gannouj Bistro instead.

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    Victoria replies on March 22nd, 2011 at 9:22 pm:

    Yes, I had the same heartbroken feeling when I drove all the way from Durham to satisfy my Baba Grill craving. I did try Aladdin and was disappointed by the quality. The bread is not fresh and the food is pretty bland. So disappointed that we lost Baba!

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  • The Triumphant Return of Bread & Kebab - Bull City Billionaires said:

    [...] of everything combined melded beautifully and was unlike any other meal in the area. The excellent Baba Grill (ed. I just learned it closed? Is this true??) in Brier Creek came closest to replicating the [...]

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