It feels like a classic hidden gem of the Dallas suburbs. The door is tucked away on the back of a two-story strip mall and office center, the strip mall itself hidden from the main road by yet another shopping center and a behemoth Walmart.
It also feels like an old-school diner that’s been given a modern makeover with an accent wall of black and white marble tiles, chrome-edged tables, plush booths, framed posters of classic movie stars and even a little ceramic sculpture of a cheeseburger. On the stereo, Abba shares time with “Take On Me,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” and other camp classics.
An old-school diner in a strip mall, between a big-box retailer and a controversial spa? That’s a misleading first impression for Eat Street Kabab Factory, a family-run restaurant that is, in fact, one of the Dallas area’s best places to eat foods from the Muslim cultures of the Indian subcontinent.
And the burgers aren’t bad, either.
Most visitors don’t pay much attention to the burger menu. They focus on Indian, Punjabi, Bengali and Pakistani delights such as tangri chicken ($10), a platter of chicken legs served outrageously tender and juicy, covered with a spice rub so assertive I could taste not just the flavors of the spices but their textures as well. Across the top of the chicken is a slathering of grilled onions and some fiery birds-eye chili peppers.
Onions are everywhere. Order the mughlai paratha ($8), a large flatbread fried and stuffed with so much filling that it becomes a pie, and red onion slices come on top as a garnish — along with jalapeños — in addition to the caramelized white onions diced up inside. Our paratha, with ground chicken and hot peppers in the filling, proved seriously addicting and was big enough to serve as an appetizer for four.
The friends who directed me to Eat Street — and there are several, since the restaurant is a cult favorite among Dallas’ culinary crowd— recommended beef seekh ($9), kebabs of ground beef into which the chefs have folded herbs, spices and tiny bits of diced onion. They’re grilled on skewers and produce an unusual texture, which looks overcooked but, in fact, captures the meat at peak flavor.
Lunch buffets ($15) offer a chance to sample most of the menu. There is chicken biryani, ribboned with spices and generous bone-in meat; tarka dal, the bright yellow stew of lentils that is tailor-made for scooping up with naan; paya, fatty beef trotters cooked low and slow in one of Eat Street’s reddest, spiciest broths; chicken tikka masala, with more personality and vigor than usual; ultratender stewed meatballs; and grilled beef kebabs studded with herbs and gouged down the middle by the skewer. A personal favorite: cumin-laced aloo keema, the mix of potatoes, green peas and ground meat so fragrantly, intoxicatingly spiced that I grabbed two extra pieces of naan to scoop up my second helping.
A side note about the naan: Eat Street keeps a stock of silverware on the buffet line, but on one of my visits, a group of eight men in Pakistani national cricket team shirts sat down next to us and, between them, used no forks, no knives and a single spoon. Their utensil of choice? Bread. Almost every food here can be devoured with naan alone.
The buffet, the only option at lunchtime on weekends, isn’t just good value for the variety of offerings; it’s consistently refreshed, and the quality doesn’t lag. There are temporary outages, but that seems preferable to food sitting out until it grows stale.
Eat Street Kabab Factory has a big and seemingly ungainly repertoire. The back side of the menu lists the restaurant’s burgers, with detailed descriptions of each — peculiar since none of the South Asian specialties have descriptions. Co-owner Zubayer Mazumder tells me that if a party books the large, lavish banquet hall upstairs, they can choose from Italian or Chinese food menus, too.
It would be easy for a critic to question a kitchen that turns out Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, Chinese and Italian foods. But Eat Street’s diversity serves a real purpose: As devout Muslims, the owners keep all their food halal, and Dallas’ immigrant community has a healthy, understandable demand for halal versions of the same comfort dishes everybody else devours without considering what’s in them.
So, on my last visit, I resisted the temptation of the chicken charga and got a jalapeño cheddar cheeseburger.
It’s called the Hot Mess ($7), and it’s pretty good. The patty is diner-style thin, well seasoned and well seared; the fried egg is cooked through rather than runny; the cheddar cheese is the shredded variety, but when some of the cheddar spills onto the griddle, it crisps up into delicious cheese chips. The bun is greased and griddled, and there are enough jalapeño slices to cause a forest fire. It’s not a mind-blowing burger, but it’s satisfying.
As I dug in, Zubairiya Nasir Mazumder, co-owner and Zubayer’s wife, walked up and addressed me by name, asking if I was the guy from the Dallas Observer.
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“We opened in 2012,” she told me, “and we never thought we’d be in the newspaper. We saw all the other restaurants get attention from newspapers, but never us. When your photographer wrote to us saying the Observer wanted to take pictures, we thought it was a practical joke.”
Eat Street Kabab Factory has survived for years, with a location change, thanks to a small legion of devoted fans and little more than word of mouth.
Eat Street Kabab Factory, 2640 Old Denton Road, Carrollton. 972-242-9999, kababboss.com. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.