CHICAGO (WLS) -- After two decades in business, the venerable Noon O Kabab has expanded across the street.
They've added a large catering kitchen, which also now serves as a fast-casual dining destination. It's the same old menu, but now you don't have to wait for a table.
The surroundings are a little less plush, a bit more utilitarian. Gone are the Persian decorations but the menu is fully intact at the new Noon O Kabab in Albany Park, which occupies a spot in the middle of a huge parking lot across the street from the original restaurant.
"We had so much long wait - one hour, 45 minutes - so I thought it would be a good addition of fast casual service to customers," said Mir Naghavi, the store's owner.
Wonderful, shareable starters include hummus and baba gannoush, but also Persian staples like kasn-kebademjan: roasted eggplant with onion, garlic, mint and dried yogurt, topped with caramelized onions. Chicken tenders are embedded in a thickish pomegranate walnut sauce, called fessenjan, and plenty more chicken exists on the grill, the domain of the kababs.
"We have our signature ground beef kabab that we make totally different and healthy than the other, called kubideh, ground sirloin," he said. "We have ground chicken and also we have pieces of both."
Kissed with melted butter, they are always juicy, charred and delicious. But don't forget about rice; shirin polo - or jeweled rice - is a saffron-infused mound, loaded with sweet bits of orange peel marmalade, crunchy pistachios, shredded carrots and plump golden raisins; you can also have the rice crispy, topped with lentils, raisins and onions. Despite the colorful arrangements and spice-laden dishes, Naghavi says the food is all pretty mild.
"We are a little bit more moderately spiced and cultured and personalities; that reflects in our food. We don't over spice things," said Naghavi.
One of the nice things about combining the fast casual kitchen with the catering operation is they can now cater events anywhere from a couple of people up to 500. And make sure you get the jeweled rice.
EXTRA COURSE: Homemade Persian ice cream available at Noon O Kabab in individual containers
Noon O Kabab
4701 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago
Noon O Kabab restaurant expands in Albany Park