Kababs, kebabs or kabobs. Any way you spell it, these flame-charred chunks of grilled meat are indicative of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Street vendors in Baghdad are known for cooking skewered lamb kebabs over hot coals. Restaurants in Beirut keep diners happy with grilled chicken shish kebabs. The wafting smell of marinated meats cooking away on a scorching grill is part of the olfactory experience of visiting the Mediterranean and points east.
While Boise is a world away from those far-flung locales, The Goodness Land offers a taste of Baghdad and beyond with an expansive menu that spotlights kebabs and other traditional offerings from that ancient region.
The quick-service eatery is tucked away in the Borah Heights shopping center on Overland Road, a few doors down from Tres Bonne Cuisine. It relocated to this spot after a suspicious fire gutted the short-lived Boise International Market back in 2015. As you may remember, chef and owner Salam Bunyan was one of the many global food vendors who suddenly found themselves displaced.
Undeterred by adversity, Bunyan quickly picked up the pieces and moved on, not unlike he did when he came to Boise a decade ago from his war-torn homeland of Iraq, where he graduated from hospitality school during more peaceful times.
Like at the Boise International Market, Bunyan employs an order-at-the-counter system at his latest incarnation. Diners simply step right up to the counter and choose their meals from the plate images depicted on an illuminated overhead menu board. The dining room has plenty of booths and colorful pictures of Baghdad street life. Let’s not forget all those shiny hookah pipes placed here and there.
But the first thing that strikes you not long after swinging open the front door is the fragrant and smoky aroma of grilling meats. It all starts with animal proteins that are marinated in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, coriander and other spice-route aromatics. The meat (mostly chicken and lamb) gets grilled on long metal skewers that resemble swords, then it’s removed and transferred onto the plates.
Go for the Lebanese-style shish tauq platter ($12.99), a large tray loaded with spice-scented grilled chicken kebabs (incredibly tender, I might add), seasoned basmati rice flecked with carrot and peas, grilled tomatoes, shaved red onion, cumin-dusted French fries and a pungent sauce made with olive oil and garlic. The platter comes with warm flatbread for scooping everything up.
The Iraqi lamb kebab sandwich ($9.99/large) shows its global fusion with a panini-pressed flour tortilla wrapped tightly around garlicky ground lamb kebabs, crispy fries, sliced onion, parsley, pickles and orange-hued fry sauce. The thinness of the tortilla really makes the filling stand out, versus using thicker pita-style bread.
Add a little more tang to your meal with a side of house-made pickles ($3.99), a mélange of vinegar-cured veggies that are common in the Arab culture.
The menu also features Levantine-inspired shawarma meat cooked on a revolving vertical spit, salads and recognizable appetizers such as baba ghanoush, hummus and dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice, herbs and spices).
“Dishin’ it” is an occasional visit to a local restaurant in which we focus on one dish.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Goodness Land
Address: 6555 W. Overland Road, Boise
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Menu price range: appetizers and salads $3.99-$8.99; entrées and sandwiches $7.99-$17.99.
Opened: June 2016