Kosher Evanston restaurant focuses on the grill

April 7, 2010 9:40:42 AM PDT
There aren't too many kosher restaurants in Chicago focusing on meat -- and only one of them is baking bread in-house everyday.

Up until recently, Taboun was the go-to place for high-quality kosher shawarma, steak and chicken. Now there's another option for kosher meat eaters o the southern border of Evanston. And even if you don't eat meat, the homemade salads and freshly-baked bread will keep you plenty occupied.

Middle Eastern restaurants are literally everywhere. You don't have to be a food sleuth to find good kebabs, shawarma and falafel. But only a handful keep their kitchens completely kosher, as they do at the new Manghal in Evanston. The name, appropriately enough, means "grill" in four languages.

"First having a background being Jew, I'm eating Kosher for two reasons: one a religion reason and one it's healthy too," said Moshe Aliel, owner of Manghal.

The focal point here is the giant taboun - or oven - where they make fresh laffa throughout the day. These flatbreads are baked on the sides of the oven for just a few minutes, and are removed when slightly blistered. They're the size of a small pizza, really, and are used as either a dipping utensil, or for rolled-up sandwiches. Falafel - the ubiquitous ball of ground chickpeas, cilantro, parsley, garlic and onions - is fried and served either with a dip of tahini sauce, or rolled up in those homemade laffas, along with a chunky Jerusalem salad, fresh hummus and tahini, for a mammoth snack you'll be hard-pressed to finish in one sitting. Aliel's other source of pride is his shawarma. Made everyday in the back, he first slices dark meat turkey and chicken - that means thighs only - and then seasons them with paprika and cardamom.

"And we're using dark meat for one reason. You can build a shawarma from chicken breast. And usually chicken breast, it dries up on the rotisserie. And dark meat, it still retains the juices," said Aliel.

After they've marinated overnight, he carefully places them around a tall skewer - alternating between the chicken and the turkey - forming a several foot-tall sculpture of vertical deliciousness. They're broiled in a machine much like any gyro operation, then sliced-to-order, the pieces juicy and crisp; they're plated either by themselves, with sides such as mashed potatoes and grilled tomatoes, or turned into a sandwich. Aliel says the fact the restaurant is completely kosher appeals to a range of interests.

"A lot of people are now going to the natural and organic. No further to talk about Kosher or understanding it's no cruel slaughtering, clean meat - no antibiotics and hormones in it - and not lactose - no mixing meat with milk, actually it's not good for your digestive system," Aliel said.

Manghal is open for lunch and dinner, but closed on the Sabbath every weekend, so be sure to call ahead just to double-check their hours.

Manghal Grill
1805 Howard St., Evanston
(847) 859-2681