Over the years Cathy has mentioned that El Cajon, and Main Street El Cajon has become an enclave for Iraqi's in the US. A few months back, I was meeting two of my favorite FOYs, Candice and Howie in El Cajon for lunch. I arrived a bit early and decided to drive down El Cajon Boulevard, which turned into Main Street, and I was astounded by the amount of Middle Eastern Markets, restaurants, and snack shops. Coincidentally, I would receive an email later that evening from FOY KennethB, who also mentioned Main Street. So over the last couple of weeks, the Missus and I have been driving East to El Cajon to kinda just look around and eat a bit.
On one of our drives we noticed a small shop doing some pretty good business, and I added it to my "list". It was called "Village Grill".
On this day, we decided just to take a drive down to El Cajon and make our decision when we arrived. Little did we know that today was also the day when the annual Mother Goose Parade was held. We decided to park, and head out on foot, and just stop by somewhere......
I've got to say that walking down Main Street past places called Babylon Market, while passing marching bands, and clowns, and cowboys, and walking into Village Grill, the scent of meat grilling on the vertical spits permeating the air was somewhat surreal. The interior of Village Grill is spartan, with just a few simple tables and chairs. We looked over the one page menu, ordered and sat down at our table watching the parade go by.
One thing about these restaurants..... I don't think you'll ever leave hungry, and you'll soon see why.
First to arrive was the Baba Ghanouj (small - $3.99).
Along with one of my new favorite things in the world, the wonderful flatbread I was told is called "Khubz". The Missus thought the Baba Ghanouj had too much tahini in it. I thought it lacked that wonderful, smokey eggplant flavor. The bread was fine, but served barely warm, and wasn't quite as good as the version at Ali Baba (a post is forthcoming) up the street.
A large plate of "Turshi", various "mezze" also arrived.
I expected the usual pickled turnips, but here it was replaced with a pickled turnip and cabbage flavored with tumeric and other spices, giving it a bracing sour-curry flavor. I really enjoyed it, the Missus did not.
Knowing what I had ordered, the Missus went with one of the "Rice & Stews"; the Okra based "Bamia", this one had beef as the meat.
The stew came with a large plate of rice. We both thought the broth was excellent, rich and tangy, with large chunks of flavorful beef, that looked tough, but was fairly tender. The okra was plentiful, and this would be quite a filling meal. I really loved the whole cloves of tender garlic in the soup, sweet and pungent, it was wonderful.
Of course, this is when my order started arriving. I had ordered the "Village Grill", the mixed meat plate. At $12.99, it was one of the more expensive items on the menu. Things started with a good sized salad.
The Missus loved the salad, which She called "refreshing"....good amounts of citrus and olive oil made this very tasty.
And then my huge plate of meat arrived. This was enough for two people at the least.
The Missus's favorite was the Shawarma Beef, also called "Gus".
This was very moist, with a nice beef flavor, that the Missus said was almost "beef jerky-ish".
Most beef kabobs in these type of restaurants tend toward the tough side, and are sometimes a bit short on flavor. This one was moist with good flavor, and if a bit on the chewy side, I wouldn't call it tough, not by a longshot. It was my favorite meat item.
Of course, that's not to snub the Tekka Beef, which was very moist.
It was also quite tender, and had a decent beef flavor. The rice on the bottom really benefited from the meat drippings.
The only item that I didn't care much for was the Hummus, which again had too much tahini, and not enough lemon, nor any other flavor to carry the day.
This was quite a meal, we left with tons of leftovers, and a full belly. The young lady who works the front of house was very sweet and nice. The prices are very reasonable, and the ingredients, except for the rice are of good quality. We'll be back without a doubt. And because I know folks like RONW love menus, here's a photo of the simple menu at Village Grill:
The best deal here right now is a buy one sandwich, get one free deal.
550 East Main St
El Cajon, CA 92020
El Cajon sure has been full of surprises for us......