Across from the taco truck, every street corner in America needs a Lebanese fast-food joint for falafel emergencies. Until that utopia arrives, we’ll all have to head to Plano, where Board Bites has been serving up a short menu of shawarma wraps, kebabs, spicy hummus and not much else since spring 2018. Of course, not much else is necessary.
The specialty here is the namesake “board,” a combo meal of a wrap sandwich and pile of fries served on a melamine tray with fake hickory print. There’s also a small array of additional sides, including Lebanese salads, dips and kibbeh available to accessorize a meal.
Of the meaty wraps, my favorite is the kafta kebab ($8 or $11.50 as a board), but that’s a matter of taste. The beef kafta patties are well-seasoned with a spice mix imported from Lebanon, then stuffed into the pita wrap alongside white onions, big chunks of pickle and a splash of tahini. Maybe we can persuade Board Bites to serve the kafta kebab as a plate — sorry, board — with scoops of pickle, onion, and salad on the side.
The chicken shawarma wrap ($7.50 or $11 as a board) combines tender cubes of white meat with an awful lot of creamy tahini, plus, surprisingly, potatoes. The result is a soft flavor profile that could do with some added edge, whether that’s acid from pickles and maybe pickled onions, or heat from slices of pepper or hot sauce. (Amusingly, the hot sauce of choice at Board Bites is good old sriracha.)
The gyro wrap is a pleasant surprise, given that gyros isn’t a Lebanese specialty ($5.50 or $9 as a board). It stars a hugely flavorful mixture of beef and lamb with just the right amount of pepper and spice. Better yet is Board Bites’ cooking: Unlike many inferior gyros, the meat isn’t dried out under its crisped edges, and it’s sliced in long, thick planks rather than thin chips. True, most of the meat is bunched toward the front of the wrap for looks, but there’s a healthy amount of lettuce and tomato in the back, and it’s easy enough to move them around.
Almost everyone here orders a board combo to get the heaping stack of fries and cup of fountain soda. And the fries are well worth having — thin, lightly crisp and well-salted, they’re actually a lot like McDonald’s fries, but with an extra dusting of red pepper.
But the non-fried sides here are well worth investigating, too. The baba ghanouj is big on smoky eggplant flavor, with comparatively less garlic in the mix ($5.50). Topped with a splash of oil and a sprinkling of sumac, the baba ghanouj begs to be scooped onto pita. So does the hummus, a rendition that goes strong on nutty, creamy tahini and light on the garlic ($5.50).
Board Bites’ tabbouleh is all about the bright flavor of parsley ($5.50). The dense green salad is lightly, properly dressed with lemon and a scoop of cubed tomatoes; although there’s bulgur wheat mixed in, too, it’s a barely noticeable wallflower at the parsley party.
I was disappointed by the tomatoes in the fattoush salad ($5.50), which were the pale, color-drained kind of trucked-in tomatoes that struggle to achieve even a hint of pinkness. The rest of the salad, with lettuce, cucumber, scallions and pita chips drizzled with a spiral of pomegranate molasses, was nice enough.
For dessert, I skipped the big, dark slabs of baklava and asked for two pieces of kibbeh to go ($6.50). That was a good choice: This is some terrific kibbeh, the thin brown crust of bulgur concealing a ground beef filling that’s nearly sweet from big slices of slowly-sauteed onions. Board Bites’ rendition puts the onions, not the meat, front and center, and it’s a delight.
The restaurant’s interior looks like a chain, with an ordering counter, color-coordinated signs and little slogans that veer between cheery and cringe-y (“love at first bite”). Those fries taste like good chain fries, too. But this is a family-run business — and the Fayad family has never worked in the food industry before.
“We never had a food business before, even in Lebanon,” says Sabah Fayad, the daughter of owner and head chef Hassan Fayad. “My father has that passion for food and sharing it — he’s almost like 24/7 here. He has a passion. He’s so enthusiastic about his work.”
Board Bites’ recipes come from family tradition; Sabah Fayad says they’re “picked up from our aunts and grandmothers.” Although the gyro meat blend comes from a supplier, Board Bites is proud to make just about everything else in-house, particularly the shawarma, which Hassan Fayad slices off the bone, marinates and grills himself. Part of the reason the meats stay so tender is that they’re all grilled rather than stacked on a vertical broiler cone.
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The Fayads are quick to point out that they’re not serving fast food: They’re serving street food. Aside from the addition of fries, everything here is straight out of the neighborhoods of Lebanon, and there’s even a native-grown alternative to fries in the form of spicy fried cubes of potatoes ($5.50).
“On Friday afternoon after coming back from school I had my favorite falafel joint,” Sabah Fayad remembers. That’s the same energy her family is seeking here.
Few culinary changes would bring the Dallas area as big a quality-of-life improvement as putting a falafel joint in every neighborhood. We’re working on it, slowly. In the northeastern corner of Plano, Board Bites is setting an example for the kafta revolution.
Board Bites, 6100 K Ave. Suite 104B, Plano. 469-929-6955. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.