Cary, N.C. — "I’m using our location as an advantage, not a disadvantage," said Samreen Nawaz, who owns Kababish Cafe with her husband, Executive Chef Yousuf.
Kababish Cafe is located in downtown Cary on the bottom level of a building that is partially below street level, but Samreen (or Sam, as her customers call her) has turned the restaurant's private exterior into a patio complete with shaded canopies, strands of lights and tables and chairs for dining al fresco. "It's great because customers can bring pets, and their kids run around without being near the street," she said.
Kababish Cafe is, literally, a hidden gem.
Sam and Yousuf, who are from New York, know that integrity and quality are what really matter in the restaurant business. Once a customer tries Kababish, they'll be very likely to return - and bring their friends.
That's because, in addition to serving exquisite Indian, Pakistani and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine that's made from scratch in the kitchen everyday by Chef Yousuf, the owners have focused their entire business on their customers since they opened last August. "Every guest matters, and we want them to feel the warmth when they walk in the door," Sam said.
True to Sam's word, dining at Kababish Cafe is personal - if you visit, you'll probably be greeted and served by Sam herself. The menu, which is already vast, is even larger than it seems, because Sam and Yousuf can customize each dish according to customers' preferences or needs. "Whether you're vegetarian, gluten-free or have a nut allergy, we can accommodate your needs," Sam explained. "We're the perfect choice for people who are afraid of 'spicy Indian food', because it doesn't ever have to be spicy unless you want it that way."
"Our food is not just Indian food, and I’m so glad we got out of that category," Sam added. She's referring to the dishes at Kababish that you can't find at other Indian restaurants, like salads, burgers and a full juice and smoothie bar. Kababish also offers catering for both large and tiny parties. "We customize each and every dish and catering service to your diet, to your budget - we make it work for you. I'm just so glad that we’re making people happy," she said.
The food at Kababish Cafe is incredibly distinct. Classics like butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, naan bread, goat and lamb cooked in curry sauces and other Indian staples can all be found there, but the owners also place a special focus on serving fusion-inspired dishes. "My kids love eating American food," Sam said, "so Yousuf has created a menu of salads, burgers, wraps and pastas that feature exotic Indian and Pakistani flavors."
Take the shrimp masala pasta, for example, which is an Indian-Italian fusion dish that has just a touch of Indian spices and the distinct flavors of a Pakistani dish.
Other menu favorites are the strawberry salad with Kababish's specially seasoned chicken, organic greens and Chef Yousuf's homemade dressing made with with garlic, lemon, olive oil and sumac. Kababish, as its name implies, is also famous for their kababs, which are served atop a bed of fragrant basmati rice and served with a generous portion of naan bread.
The naan is made fresh in the kitchen everyday, so it's always soft and warm. Customers can even get a chicken or vegetable wrap that's wrapped up in Yousuf's famous naan. "That’s why it’s fusion," Sam said. "You can enjoy classics made with a Kababish twist."
Customers can stop by Kababish Cafe for lunch and dinner or partake in the restaurant's new brunch hours on Saturdays and Sundays. A special menu is offered at brunch, complete with a masala omelet, kababs and a special, extra-fluffy naan. If you stop by during lunch, be sure to take advantage of the wonderful special, complete with an appetizer, generous entree served with rice and naan and homemade Indian dessert for less than $12.
What's next for Kababish? Sam and Yousuf are excited that, soon, their juice and smoothie bar will feature pomegranate, kiwi and lemon drinks - which are all freshly squeezed in the restaurant. The weather is getting warmer, so Kababish's "jazz nights" will continue on Fridays and Saturdays throughout each month, too.
"I want this to be a business where people recognize us for a date night, a place to grab lunch or a place to pick up food for a picnic," Sam concluded. "We want dining at Kababish to be special, but laid-back. We want the flavors of our food to dance on your tongue."