Eat Drink Jax interviews Makial Anwar, co-owner of Kabob-e.
22. In addition to your Afghani specialties you also serve classic items such as burgers and wings. How do they fit into your menu?
Many Afghani people eat Halal meat. All the items on the menu are Halal. Many Afghani people also love the traditional American classic burgers, wings, Philly cheese steak and they love that we are providing them with Halal meat. That is the other unique feature - that people who eat only Halal can come and enjoy these American favorites at Kabob-e.
23. Can you tell us about Afghani desserts?
They are also very unique. The uniqueness in the desserts comes from using traditional ingredients such as cardamom, rosewater, pistachios, and walnuts. The Jelabi and Firnee are the most common Afghani desserts. The Firnee is an Afghani creamy pudding flavored with cardamom and rosewater and topped with pistachios. We make it ourselves in-house.
The Jelabi also made in-house and is similar to an American funnel cake. Instead of a powered sugar coating it has a homemade syrup coating. It is crispy fried rings of dough coated in syrup. It is very difficult to make but tastes great.
24. Do you have catering?
Yes we do. We have already started catering and are working to expand in that department. We will be creating new menu options that will cater individually to specific functions. For example, we will create different options for weddings, office meetings, and other events. So keep an eye on that in the following months to come.
25. Where did you get all your recipes?
My husband is the main cook. He has had a special love for cooking all his life. His grandmother lived with his family when he was growing up and she always used him as her helper. He picked up many of the recipes from her. The special touches come from his love of cooking and always trying different things to come up with the best tasting foods. The majority of the food ideas are the traditional Afghani and Mediterranean style foods that have been passed down from generation to generation. This type of food is a big hit in the New York and New Jersey areas where we used to live.
26. Has your husband worked at a restaurant before?
For the past thirteen years Zabeh owned a pushcart in New York. He was serving breakfast but his love was to do lunches and dinners which involve grilling.
27. What made you want to open your own restaurant?
My husband loved to cook and always wanted to be his own boss. I have been a dental hygienist for the past 13 years and needed a break from it. The hours were too long and I wanted to do something that would give me more fulfillment. I have been trained many years in the concept of customer service and how powerful it can be. I think the main ingredient in any business is customer service. I wanted to bring this concept to Kabob-e and show how it can be successful. As long as you have a good product, which I know my husband has, and mix in great customer service - that will be your success.
28. What attracted you to Jacksonville?
My sister lived here for a while and we had visited a few times. We knew Jacksonville was in need of a good Afghani restaurant. So we sat together and said we knew we could do it. There’s been nothing but excitement from the first day. It’s been a big move for us, but we knew here is where we will grow old. We love the weather and the smiles on the Jacksonville people. We keep saying everyone is happy here, there has to be a catch. But luckily we have not found that catch yet. Kabob-e has been a hit since the first day we opened the doors.
29. Have you had any big surprises opening the restaurant?
Not really. The only thing I can think about is our Tandoor. We have spent a lot of money setting up a very expensive oven but we have not been able to perfect it. The bread was not coming out as good as Zabeh's grandmother's naan did. So for now we have taken it out of the menu until we perfect it. Other than this little dilemma, everything else has been smooth sailing.
30. How did you pick your location?
We knew we wanted to be on Beach Boulevard because of its busyness. We looked at many places but were turned off with them because they looked so big, dirty and overwhelming. We wanted to get a place that was clean and simple. Our current location is manageable. Once we get bigger, we can always expand.
31. What’s next for Kabob-e?
We have high hopes for Kabob-e. We want to be a household name that everyone wants to go to. We want people to eat, enjoy and talk about us to everyone. Once this location is perfected we would like to start franchising. We already have a couple of people asking for a franchise opportunity. We will not open second one now. We want to use all our energy in bettering Kabob-e everyday.
32. Anything else?
I just want to say that we are here to stay. We want to be the best. We are open to feedback. We have a suggestion box and anything we overlooked we would love to hear about. We want to thank the people of Jacksonville for welcoming us and making us a success.
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About the writer
EatDrinkJax.com interviews are conducted by Jacksonville Beach resident Gerry Glynn. When Gerry isn't talking with restauranteurs he is working for a local software company, training for his next road race, and hanging out with his wife and dog.