*** Update - thanks to StR, who commented below, Chef Tony is currently closed, and will reopen in a months in a different location. A brief update can be found here, at the bottom of the post.
Way back in August of last year I received an email from Christina recommending Chef Tony Mediterranean and Lebanese Cuisine, so I added Chef Tony to my "list". But for one reason or another we just never quite made it to Chef Tony. Then last week "Keith" left a comment also recommending Chef Tony, so this time I really had to make sure to pay the restaurant a visit. An opportunity arose this past Tuesday. We were headed out to Viejas for a concert, and thought a nice detour to the College area, and a visit to Chef Tony was in order.
Chef Tony is located next to an AM/PM, and fronting a mostly unoccupied strip mall on El Cajon Boulevard. It seems that Chef Tony had been perhaps a pizza joint in a previous life. We were greeted by the dignified, though perhaps vertically challenged fellow at the door. Chef Tony, perhaps?
We arrived at about 530pm, and the restaurant was empty except for a family finishing up dinner.
After a brief wait we placed our order.
The Missus ordered the Lamb Kabob Plate($10.95):
Two skewers of Lamb,on a bed of nondescript rice, some nicely flavored hummus, and a fresh Greek salad with the typical vinaigrette dressing. Nothing really outstanding, except the lamb. The lamb was not just fork tender, but "plastic fork" tender:
And though the lamb was just mildly marinated and seasoned, it was grilled to perfection, with just the right amount of charring. We could have done with a bit more "muttony" flavor, but still, the texture and tenderness was right on.
I opted for the Shawarma Combo Plate($9.95):
Strips of marinated and nicely charbroiled beef and chicken, we both thought the beef had more flavor then the chicken. Though I enjoyed the hummus, and everything else that came with the plate, it's the "white stuff" that made the dish. That "white stuff" is delici-yoso garlic paste, very garlicky, and yet without the bitter bite of garlic. It's as if the "soul" of garlic had been captured. You do understand that I love garlic, right?
Two large warm pitas were also provided for sandwiching our meats and slathering with garlic paste.
We also ordered a half dozen Falafel($3.75):
These were only garbanzo bean falafel, with no fava beans. You can tell by the color, and flavor. Made fresh and brought sizzling to the table. I thought these falafel were fair, since they were small in size, I thought there was too much "crust", and the interior wasn't quite as smooth as I enjoy. The falafel were also a bit on the oily side, and when we finished there was a small pool of oil at the bottom of the bowl.
In a nutshell, if you enjoy the gritty crust of the falafel, you'll enjoy these. Personally, I enjoy the balance the crunchy exterior, along with sufficient amount of slightly creamy "filling". Still not bad for the price, and you know these haven't been lying around or put into some drawer stored for later.
We enjoyed Chef Tony, and I think we'll be in whenever we're in the neighborhood. As we were leaving, the place started to fill up, and the smell of Shawarma(and garlic) filled the air.
Notes on Chef Tony: This is a small Family operation, so one thing it's not, is "fast food". Think of it as very casual, leisurely dining if you eat in. The menu consists of a good variety from appetizers like Dolma($3.95) and Falafel (1/2 dozen $3.75-1 dozen $6.75), to salads (small greek salad $2.95-large$4.95), reasonable priced sandwiches from $3.75(Lebni) to $4.95 (Beef Shawarma), to various entrees ($6.50 - $10.95). Oh, and you can buy a "large" order of Garlic Paste(Toum) for $3.50.
Thanks for the recommendation Christina and Keith!
6311 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
Here's where I show my "age". Guess what concert we went to? I'm allowed one "old-fogey" concert a year and this year it was Blondie(good - Debra Harry's voice sounded really good), and The "New" Cars(bleh, except for Elliot Easton). As great a musician and songwriter Todd Rundgren is, he's no replacement for Ric Ocasek. And though Kasim Sultan and Prairie Prince sound like a great rhythm section, they sounded a bit out of synch.....I kept waiting for a "train wreck" especially on Shake It Up, where the tempo would constantly speed up, and Elliot Easton would have to "reign it in".
Of course we kept singing "One way, or another, I'm going to get you, I'm going to get you, get you, get you...." All the way home.