Ahli Baba: perfect for late night munchies



A perfect pita

Located on Main Street in Burlington, Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop is the place to be if it’s 2 a.m. and you have a drunken craving for some affordable Mediterranean food.

Two steps away from the Flynn Center is this quirky and simple restaurant. The actual dining area seats up to 10 comfortably. If it appears crowded already, I’d suggest takeout. If you’re lucky and find space for yourself and whoever is accompanying you, I would recommend staying, as the experience of being there leaves a greater impression than the food.

Well overdue for a good cleaning with some dirt on the floors and a tint of smog on the walls, the atmosphere is enthusiastically casual. This is something you may not mind or might even appreciate while discovering decent cheap food after a night of partying on Church Street.

The walls are decorated with old album covers for bands such as The Beatles and The Grateful Dead, on top of a creamy peach color paint. Right next to the entrance are signs and posters for upcoming events in the area. The three tables are bare except for a large napkin dispenser up against the wall. The seats are high bar stools, which are not the most comfortable, but are practical to go along with the high tables. The music that plays throughout the whole place is very retro 60s and 70s. This nicely complements the laid back and upbeat atmosphere.

Most notable is the garage window that opens, allowing customers to interact with those out on the street. It’s a very laid back and friendly environment when this window is open. The difference in atmosphere between day and night time here is greatly impacted by whether or not it’s open. There’s a more robust energy and flow through out the place. You may find you need to raise your voice to have a conversation with someone next to you.

Customer service is important here because there’s so little time to establish that relationship when the ordering style is fast paced. If you walk in when business is slow, you could have time to look at the menu options and ask the cashier/server questions, but otherwise you have about 30 seconds to make up your mind, order and pay if you want to avoid an awkward transaction. I recall our server being kind but did seem eager to be done with us. All three workers in the back had rushed attitudes, yet still had the time to smile and make you feel welcomed.

The food is served on paper plates with plastic utensils. Their food selection ranges from steak or chicken kabob or falafel or gyro pitas to their breakfast burritos. I ordered their number one breakfast burrito, which contains egg, cheddar cheese and salsa in a soft tortilla. This simple combination of food proved to have plenty of texture and flavor. The egg was scrambled; some of it seemed wet and spongy while some of it seemed dry and over cooked. The cheese was gooey and held all other ingredients together. The salsa was fresh and had a little heat to it. The burrito was large and filling. Overall, I’d say it was worth the $4.50.

My friend ordered the chicken kabob pita. The chicken was charbroiled and sautéed in Ahli Baba’s own barbeque sauce, accompanied by onions, peppers and mushrooms. Then also added into the warm pita was diced tomatoes, lettuce, salsa and an herb mayo. I tried a few bites and thought all ingredients were well balanced and worked well together. My only complaint is that the chicken was a little chewy. The combination of the warm chicken, onions, peppers and mushrooms with the chilled tomatoes, lettuce, and herb mayo is a little shocking but pleasant. This cost was $8.50.

On our way out we ordered a gyros pita, possibly my favorite out of everything we tried. It has four small seasoned beef patties, red onion, lettuce, tomatoes and tzatziki sauce. The beef was juicy and salty. The tzatziki sauce was made of diluted yogurt, cucumber, garlic and salt. This sauce was what really made this menu item stand out for me because of its uncommon taste. This also cost $8.50, making everything total up to about $22.

The presentation wasn’t anything fancy. I found it was hard to eat without making a mess, but maybe that’s just part of the fun. They give you large portions and have your food to you in less than five minutes. I always find the low cost worth the fast service and comforting food.

Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., Thursday through Sunday.

There’s no real questioning why their busiest hours are catching the tourists or college students late at night when they don’t care too much about cleanliness or personal space. This shop is best at convince and their simple yet eccentric style.

This can still be an enjoyable experience to anyone who is sober and just looking for an affordable quick bite. I’ve been to Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop at several different times of the day and have seen a great change in atmosphere, but the food is always satisfying.