Ever since I got over my irrational prejudice against strip mall restaurants (probably sometime in my teenage years), I have been eager to give a second glance to those establishments that suffer from bland concrete exteriors and generic signage. This is how I came to appreciate Yildizlar, an unassuming Lebanese restaurant that serves a very respectable mixed shawarma plate.
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I can't say that the lackluster façade of Yildizlar belies a charming interior because the small dining room, save a few random knickknacks and decorations, is fairly utilitarian. Prices are also as or a wee bit more expensive than other Middle Eastern joints.
But the food is fresh, consistent, and comes in large portions, so I don't mind forking over the extra dollar or two, especially since the kind clerks almost always give me extra pita bread and tzatziki sauce. The sandwiches are overstuffed and delicious, but the plates are my favorite, as they offer the opportunity to sample the multiple hot and cold dishes available at the "Veggie Station."
A mixed shawarma plate ($12) provides you with two mounds of thickly shaved tender white-meat chicken and juicy lamb, which rest on a bed of steaming long grain rice. As Yildizlar is seldom crowded after 4 p.m., service is generally prompt, though that's a moot point in my case, as I tend to spend a good ten minutes debating the relative merits of my side dish options. They're all good, actually: Even late in the day, the hummus tastes like it was mixed just ten minutes prior and the sautéed spinach is still flavorful and robust. No limps greens here.
A more civilized person would probably use utensils to consume this plate and all its marvelous components, but this girl usually ditches the knife and fork in favor of making a series of miniature pita sandwiches filled with meat, tzatziki, rice, and vegetables. No matter how much I stuff myself, there is inevitably leftover bread and hummus, just enough for a mid-afternoon snack the following day.