Ather Jameel of Kabob’s Indian Grill

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

UPDATE: 12/02/11: Ownership of Kabob’s has changed, along with the hours and phone number.

So you’re strolling along Nicollet Mall and you get a little hungry. You enter Gaviidae Commons and take the escalator up to the fourth floor. You see the usual food court offerings — a McDonald’s, a Subway — when you spot Kabob’s Indian Grill offering a $4.99 lunch buffet. You begin to look for which 2-3 items you’ll pick, when you realize: There are about 25 items! The new question: How much can fit on one plate?

Such abundance initially came out of scarcity. Kabob’s owner, software engineer Ather Jameel, arrived in Minneapolis to work as a technology consultant. A native of Hyderabad, a state in South India, Jameel says he soon found he couldn’t find any good Hyderabadi food in the Twin Cities area. In search of a solid meal, he drove all the way to Chicago to a restaurant called Hyderabad House.

“But, it would be: Have a feast, then come back,” Jameel says, emphasizing that the Chicago trips, though a short fix, were not a permanent solution.

Jameel noticed that there were many other Indian IT professionals in the Twin Cities in a similar predicament. Later, when he hosted parties at his home, guests would rave about the food that his wife and mother prepared. “You have to have a restaurant!,” Jameel recalls his friends begging his family.

Jameel took their advice, eventually leaving the tech field to become a restaurant entrepreneur. He and his wife opened a food stand in Bloomington in 2007, a sit-down restaurant in Maple Grove in 2008, and then the downtown Minneapolis skyway’s Kabob’s Indian Grill in 2009. Jameel’s business has also catered major events for the Indian community in the area, such as famous Indian singer Sonu Nigam’s concert at the Minneapolis Convention Center for over 1000 people.

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

Though many of his customers are Indian, the Kabob’s restaurants take into account the Minnesota palate. Jameel says that dishes are prepared at a medium spicy level, approximately “one red chile pepper,” or roughly 20% less spicy than you would find in India.

Downtown workers rely on Kabob’s not just for authentic Hyderabadi dishes, but also for Indian dishes from other regions. The first half of the buffet line hosts a number of vegetarian dishes such as dosas, idlis, wadas, pav bhaji, and a rotating selection of few types of rice such as rice dotted with lentils, grated unsweetened coconut, and mint. The second part of the buffet is non-vegetarian. One highlight is the goat curry, a homemade recipe from Jameel’s wife, Sarah, that features soft morsels of goat and a mild spicy flavor. (Did you ever think you could be addicted to goat?)

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

The authentic Hyderabadi dishes at Kabob’s include a variety of biryanis (cooked rice dish with meat or vegetables), Chicken 65 (a favorite of Jameel’s that consists of salty, spicy, bright red bits of cooked chicken), tandoori chicken that is prepared in the Hyderabadi style instead of the more common Punjabi version (Jameel won’t reveal the secret spice mixture), and the dessert double ka meetha that resembles a sweet, orange-colored bread pudding.

Jameel says Kabob’s is different from many other Indian restaurants because of the homecooked method of preparation of each dish.

“There’s no pre-making sauces that are then put on different foods… no heavy oils, no heavy cream,” Jameel explains, hinting at a practice in some restaurants of making standard sauces then slightly adjusting them depending on what’s ordered. He says at Kabob’s they opt for grinding their own masalas so they have control over each dish.

Indian breads and snacks are made on site as well. That means in the kitchen behind the buffet, cooks are making naan, placing them inside a 300° Celsius (572° Fahrenheit) tandoor oven. Jameel says in addition to the lunch rush, customers also stop by in the afternoon to pick up a snack : samosas, vegetarian pakoras, bhel puri, dahl puri, pani puri, and Indian tea (black tea prepared with fragrant spices) — each for $2.00 or less.

Perhaps a more refreshing option in the summer heat would be a mango lassi ($1.75): sweet, thick, cool, and full of intense mango flavor. Jameel says the drink is so popular, his customers “don’t want to miss it.” The question is, do you?

Kabob’s Indian Grill
Indian Buffet in Downtown Minneapolis

555 Nicollet Mall (4th floor)
Minneapolis, MN 55402
612.455.6156
OWNER: Ather and Sarah Jameel SAI Enterprises LLC
HOURS:
Mon-Fri 8:30 am-7:00pm
Sat: 10:30am-6pm (brunch special)
BAR: None
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Always offers vegan options
ENTREE RANGE: $4.99 / full plate buffet

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

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20 Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure a decent tandoor gets up above 700 degrees F. He might have been quoting you Celsius. My experiences with Kabob’s are that their focus is on quantity over quality and that at $4.99 you get what you pay for. But they do a booming business with Indian IT guys, many of whom seem to work the line in the restaurant, so their business model would seem to be working. At least it improves the smell of the food court.

  2. I have also heard from others that the quality of food is not good and taste is bleh.

  3. Shehnaz,

    I have eaten at numerous Indian buffets around the metro (and further) and I can tell you it’s just like any of them–if not a little better in some areas especially for the price.

    And while you can take whatever I say and toss it out as another worthless response, I suppose the fast moving but seemingly never-ending line at the place speaks to the fact that it’s better than anything else you’re going to get downtown without having to pay more than $15/meal.

    *shrug*

  4. I disagree. You can go to Bombay Bistro 2 blocks away for a larger array of fresher and more professionally prepared food (properly butchered chicken and better baked naan for starters) for around $10, and it’s all you can eat as opposed to one trip through the line. Basically 4x the meal at 2x the price.

  5. morchella06/09/2010Reply

    Once I got over the need to overload my plate and try every single thing in one huge mass, I learned to like this buffet. Their yellow dal is very good, as is the goat curry. I’m a big fan of idli and sambal. Moderation and choosing wisely is the key. The staff is also super friendly and efficient- another reason it’s a nice place for lunch.

  6. I love this place. They pack so much food on the plate I could probably get 3 meals out of it. I’ve been a number of times and had some awesome things, and some just ok things. but for $5, i can’t complain at all.

  7. seema dubey06/09/2010Reply

    I feel sorry for those people who always have a habit of cribbing on others. They cant afford to pay high price for their food & say the price is exhorbitant, on contrary if they are offered a cheaper price, they say the quality is not good. Very clearly, it means they are not happy either ways & misguide people from effectively utilising the opportunities. For me, ever since i have come to here for a roll out, I have been having food at kabobs & simply, no one can match their excellence in both price & quality….

  8. Allex Kellen06/09/2010Reply

    Simply delicious food…….

  9. sai prasanna06/09/2010Reply

    rombhaa nalla irikuuuu……………………..
    The only Indian food store that i like in Minneapolis is KABOBS.

  10. Kanthi Sharma06/09/2010Reply

    The monopoly of other indian restaurants in the downtown have been greatly challenged by the opening of kabobs. Now every1 will focus on customer service rather than just making money… Thats why i feel they do not like the existence of this competitor.

  11. Aarti Agarwal06/09/2010Reply

    What nonsense… why people think their comments are gonna be valued so much.. stop this cheap popularity stunts by either writing in favor or opposing kabobs. Just mind ur business… If u feel like going to this place, go their else u r at freedom to go anywhwre… I dont know who u are, but for sure u have nothing to do with either kabobs or bombay bistro, ur just trying to make a cheap name for urself.

  12. bahot mazedaar khana hai, log chahe kuch bhi kahen, i enjoy. although i dont get to visit them often but evrytime its a new treat…

  13. Shailaja Reddy06/09/2010Reply

    I agree with you guys, when in downtown, its worth visiting kabobs.

  14. no one else can offer a better combination of veg & non-veg food than kabobs does. Thanks to the author for doing justice to kabobs people by writing for their credit.

  15. Author, R. Pereira06/09/2010Reply

    geoff — Yes, the temperature is 300 degrees Celsius. Please also note that that is the temperature for cooking the naan, not the temperature of the oven at other times (obviously, it is higher when cooking chicken). Thanks for reading.

  16. Kabobs is definitely the best Indian joint in Minneapolis. The food is awesome and is definitely the best bang for your buck!

  17. Asma Zeba06/11/2010Reply

    Its been a while for me to have visited kabobs, but i miss it for sure.. really tasty food..

  18. i eat their food everyday……..i am from pakistan but like to eat their south indian plater……..their stuff is very friendly and helpful……..they always sugguest u what curry u can eat with rice /naan………I LOVE KABOBS………

  19. JOSE SMALL10/22/2011Reply

    HI TO EVERYBODY I HOPE YOU ARE DOING GOOD GUYS,IT’S SO GREAT TO COMUNICATE BY THIS WAY,THIS IS “JOSE SMALL” I’M IN MEXICO NOW BUT I WILL BE IN USA VERY SOON,I WISH TO CONTINUE WORKING FOR YOU GUYS,I LIKE TO BE A HARD WORKER SO I APRECIATE IF YOU GIVE ME AN OTHER CHANCE TO START TO WORK AGAIN,I JUST WANT TO SAY THANKS SO MUCH AND HOPEFULLY I WAIT FOR YOU REQUEST,THANKS AND GOD BLESS YOUR BUSINESS!!! MY PHONE NUMBER IS 01152 243 43 83024. TAKE CARE!!

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