I have yet to find more than three real Middle Eastern restaurants that actually have good food in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island areas. One of them is the incomparable East Side Pockets in Providence, RI (Syrian), another is Falafel King in Quincy, MA (Iraqi) and the other is Joe’s Shish Kabob (Lebanese) covered in this post. It’s no coincidence that all of these restaurants are not upscale fancy places, but instead offer a simple dining experience. That is because the best Middle Eastern food is the kind made at home by families and fancying-up the foods usually just leads to disaster. The only thing you are paying for at an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant is the atmosphere or exotic ingredients that bastardize the dishes. Generally, Middle Eastern food is usually very affordable. Part of what makes Joe’s Shish Kabob a success is that the food is homemade, but also made simply to maintain the integrity of the traditional dishes.
Joe’s Shish Kabob
275 Martine St.
Fall river, MA 02723
(The address above does not always work in a GPS system properly.
Make sure the location is on Route 6 and parallel to 195 on its South side)
Atmosphere and Service
Joe’s Shish Kabob is a little hard to find because it isn’t near a very busy area. There are some big businesses in the somewhat industrial location and the restaurant is tucked away next to them. GPS doesn’t always work for locating the restaurant either, so you just have to make sure that you are on Route 6, south of 195 in Fall River. The interior of Joe’s is simple. It looks like a cross between a convenience store and a sandwich shop with the menu posted over the front counter. It’s not fancy, but it’s comfortable. The service is nice, efficient, and willing to help you make a decision about the food. You order your food at the counter and if you’re eating in, the food is sometimes brought out to you or sometimes you can just pick it up from the counter when it’s ready. If you know a little Arabic, go ahead and show off your skills because the owners seem to enjoy it.
The food is where Joe’s really shines. As I mentioned, so many Middle Eastern restaurants just can’t seem to get it right. They either cut corners by ordering frozen or prepared food, or over compensate by trying to add some pizzazz to traditional dishes thereby ruining them. Even worse, I’ve found that many Middle Eastern restaurants simply don’t know how to cook, but find success in locations lacking in ethnic cuisine so people just don’t know any better. Joe’s has none of these problems. They make their food in-house and you can tell by the fresh quality. Almost nothing is immediately ready, so you might wait a few minutes before the food is ready. In typical Lebanese fashion much of the food has a little bit of vinegar or lemon, but never an obnoxious amount like many other places. This indicates to me that they are not trying to cover up poor ingredient quality with powerful sour flavors like many other Lebanese places do.
Out of curiosity, I ordered a meat pie as an appetizer to the lunch I shared with my wife. I wanted to see if it was as good as the famed Sam’s Bakery pies. Honestly, it was as good if not better. I wasn’t sure if Joe’s made their own pie’s or ordered them from somewhere, but they were fresh, soft, well-balanced with spices, and not swimming in oil or lemon juice. On their website they advertise a new open flame oven, which they use to make the pies (as well as pizza apparently). It was just a really excellent Lebanese-style meat pie.
My wife ordered a Greek Salad with grilled chicken added. The salad was a good size and the chicken really added a lot to it. I can’t say that it was an especially unique salad because the ingredients were relatively plain, but they were generous with the feta cheese and chicken. It was a good choice for a lighter lunch.
I ordered a Chicken Kabob wrap, which came out wrapped in a big thin pita. This is one of my absolute favorite kinds of bread. It tastes great and is perfect for dipping or wrapping. The chicken was cooked well and and the spices weren’t overpowering. There was a bit of vinegar, but it added to the wrap rather than distracted from the ingredients. The tahini and vegetables made each crunchy bit more delicious than the last as the ingredients mingled.
If you ever have a chance to go to Joe’s, I also recommend getting a hummus plate. Just make sure to ask for some beef cut up on top. I had never had hummus like this before, but on my first visit to Joe’s with my mother who showed me how to find it, that is how we had our hummus. Truthfully, we didn’t even ask for the beef, but I think the owner wanted to make our first visit a memorable one and he did!
If you are ever in the mood for Middle Eastern food or you have never tried it then go to Joe’s Shish Kabob. It’s wonderful homemade food that is quick, affordable, and delicious. Let places like Joe’s restore your faith in Middle Eastern restaurants and stop being fooled by imitators.