Friends, it's been a long time coming. But last weekend finally saw the opening of Parking In Rear a.k.a. Sofra Kebab Express, the new Mediterranean restaurant on Venice two blocks east of Saints, and yakking distance from my presidential compound. The local ladies amongst you may recall how the $5 clothing store off Westwood that you loved so much was recently kicked the frruck out like a squatter settlement so that the 88-cent store where nothing is 88 cents could move one door to the left. The wall that borders Habib's, that fine purveyor of withered produce, was torn down soon thereafter and the resulting rubble gazed upon for several weeks by numerous men of Arabian descent before construction commenced in earnest on what was described only in whispers: a local kebab and hookah spot.

Alas, it's Muslim-owned, so no alcohol. But that's what Saints is for. Besides, if my last post established anything, it is hopefully the fact that more drinking options are the last thing I need. The cashier at Habib's told me they'd be open until 2am-ish on weekends, which at least for last weekend has not proven to be the case - they were done by 11. But I remain pathetically excited about this addition to my constituency. Gaby's is similar and has later hours, but at six blocks away it might as well be six days away. Besides, the food tastes decent enough, but let's just say it doesn't digest well.

And that's the deciding factor ultimately: the food. Then again, if the last post established anything else, it's the fact that I'll eat anything that's not moving too much. And I'll extend that rule to anything that's not making too much noise as long as it means I don't have to leave my three-block radius. So okay, ultimately the deciding factor for me is NOT the food, but it would be nice if it tasted good.

Being half Middle Eastern, I know my Mediterranean food. And I also know you can't grade a brand new spot in Culver City against a back-alley joint in a three-thousand-year-old Istanbul bazaar without using at least a slight curve. So by that rationale, Parking In Rear is good. Nothing for Zankou or Gypsy Cafe to lose sleep over, but definitely enough to keep you local when you have a hankering for skewers of meat.

To date, I have eaten:

a chicken pita
a lamb pita
an adana kebab sandwich
a falafel plate

and a couple of sides. It all needs more lemon, salt, garlic and olive oil - in short, more flavor - to elevate it from B to A status. Hummus is the yardstick of any Med spot, and here it's curiously unaddictive. And babaganoush is nowhere on the menu.

The prices also need shaving by about 20%. At $4.50 for a regulation espresso-size Turkish coffee, it's strictly for when someone else is paying. They have a ton of interesting-looking sides, but substituting your fries for any of them will get you taxed. For a new restaurant in a working-class neighborhood, they seem a bit deluded with regards to their target demographic.

On the positive side, the adana sandwich is fucking bananas. Do not wear a long-sleeved shirt. The falafels are piping hot, crunchy outside, and soft inside. I haven't tried the lamb shank yet, but it looks promising, largely because I'm a sucker for lamb. And the Turkish coffee may be pricey but it's also perfect.

They're obviously doing something right. It's reasonably busy whenever I pass by. I saw the long-haired guy who lives in one of those green bungalows across Venice and plays his electric guitar all day on his stoop in there twice, and he looks pretty broke. Coppelia's, the Mexican spot two doors down, looks like it's feeling the pinch. I hope they don't go belly up; they do rotisserie chickens for $6.

I guess the only question left now is how long it's gonna be before the cooks start hitting on my sisters.


  1. Too late, I think I saw one of the cooks on the balcony at your sister's crib during her birthday after-hours.


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