Though many years have passed since I patiently had to explain what “pita bread” was to local supermarket managers, it’s still not that common to find a Middle Eastern restaurant smack in the middle of small-town Rhode Island. That’s one reason why Markos Kabob and More in Narragansett has struck such a chord with South County residents. The other reasons are its bargain prices, its tasty food, and its friendly service.
This is precisely the kind of place hungry students like to locate, even more so because of its vegan and vegetarian options. Indeed, you could make a whole meal from several “lite delights”: hummus with pita, roasted eggplant dip (a relative of baba ganoush), tabouleh, stuffed grape leaves, or falafel. Best of all, you can choose, as we did, an appetizer sampler that includes all of these, in either a $6 or a $10 portion. The smaller plate almost filled the three of us who were sharing it, and all of these appetizers were delicious. Everything at Markos is homemade by owner/cook Mark Awad, a cheerful and hard-working young Syrian-American, who is throwing himself into his first business venture.
Awad also offers three salads — Greek, Caesar, and yogurt/cucumber, the latter with piquant touches of garlic and mint — and two soups: lentil and gazpacho. In an adaptation of a Spanish classic, Awad presents an inexpensive seafood paella ($8.50). The pan-seared scallops and broiled cod were baked with rice and vegetables in a lemon-white wine sauce, but as appealing as the sauce was, the baking seemed to dry out the seafood.
I’d advise sticking with the kabobs; six variations are on the menu, along with a kabob sampler, the most expensive item, at $12.50. Bill opted for that, tasting the shish kabob, marinated beef chunks; kabob halabi (ground sirloin, packed into tiny balls with shredded onion and pine nuts); jaj kabob (chicken with a special house seasoning); Caribbean kabob (chicken with an island-accented sauce); and vegetable kabob, nicely grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant. Any of the kabobs can be individually chosen, for $6.50 to $7.50, with a side of rice or fries.
Bill’s two top picks on our first visit were the Caribbean and the shish kabob. I immediately liked the jaj kabob, and at a subsequent supper, we both rated it No. 1. The white-meat chicken chunks were deliciously moist, seasoned with a blend of spices that included cumin, cloves and cardamom — with that last taste kicking this dish into stardom. The halabi, the shish, and the jaj can also be ordered as wraps ($5.50-$5.75), with hummus and veggies. Other wraps include falafel and a new one to me, baked falafel; a Greek gyro, the traditional strips of beef with tzatziki (yogurt/cucumber sauce); grilled chicken; and my favorite for new vegetarians or carb-pumping athletes, bab touma, French fries in a wrap with lettuce, ketchup and pickles!
Other dishes that Bill has enjoyed are the maldoum, a personal recipe of Awad’s, containing roasted eggplant (always one of his favorites) and a ground beef mixture, simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and served over rice ($7.25); and Turkish lamajeen, a flatbread pizza with ground beef and spices, served with a generous dollop of tzatziki ($6.50), a nice complement to the flavors in the pizza topping.