An oasis of fresh Turkish and American food in the Financial District desert
Dozens of lousy fast-food chain outlets dot the Financial District. (If I worked there, I'd frequent Chinatown for lunch.) But a few independently operated restaurants — like Boston Kebab House — serve reasonable, tasty food. Turkish cuisine stars here, notably the eye-popping "meze bar," a self-service cold buffet where, for $6.99 per pound (up to a $9.95 maximum), you can load a container full of Middle Eastern spreads (hummus, baba ghanoush, muhammara), whole-legume salads (white bean, black bean, red bean, green lentil, chickpea), and other salads (string bean, tabbouleh, artichoke, falafel, red-lentil fritters). The same box can be loaded with "hot station" entrées like roast lamb, moussaka, and pastizio. A variety of savory pies (spinach, lamb/beef) and fritters (zucchini, artichoke, spinach) are available for $1 each. You could mix it up at this station every lunch for months without getting bored, and it's all quite good and relatively healthy.
Turkish kebabs and fritters are another solid bet, wrapped in pita ($6.90-$8.43) or served as plates ($8.81-$11.19) with mounds of shepherd salad, two kinds of rice, and cucumber/yogurt sauce. Chicken, lamb, steak tip, and swordfish shish kebabs are flavorfully marinated and perfectly cooked, while kofte (ground-meat patties) of chicken, tandoori chicken, and beef/lamb are likewise delicious. But doner kebab, the famous Turkish analogue to Greek gyros, was inedibly salty on one visit and off-tasting on another — a disappointment. Chickpea falafel is better, nicely crunchy and un-greasy. Both wraps and plates feature thin, flavorless pita bread.
The well-stocked American salad bar also draws big queues: you can load your bowl ($5.48/small; $6.62/large) with any of four types of greens, 50-plus vegetable options, a choice of two "proteins" (ranging from grilled chicken and salmon to hard-cooked eggs and avocado chunks), and any of a dozen dressings (plus that underwhelming pita). A similarly elaborate American sandwich bar lets customers build sandwiches for $6.19 each. Beyond familiar American sodas ($1-$1.90), a few Turkish juices and soft drinks ($1.67) can be had, as well as muddy, jitter-inducing Turkish coffee ($1.90). Peak-period crowds can make this a hectic go, and the 46-seat downstairs dining room could be kept more scrupulously clean. But if you choose wisely from its huge menu, this little island of handmade food in a sea of bad subs and burgers is a fine alternative for the time-pressed downtown worker.
Boston Kebab House, located at 7 Liberty Square, in Boston, is open Monday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm. Call 617.227.6900.
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