The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Tag: Sultan Kebab

#4: Ottobun with Beef – Otto

The Doner Kebab

With origins in the Ottoman Empire that date back centuries, doner kebab and its descendants have become some of the most popular foods of the Western world. The beloved dish stacks slabs of marinated meat on a vertical spit, which rotates beside a heat source, charring the meat’s exterior as it slowly cooks the interior. To serve, thin pieces are shaved by slicing down the outside of the meat.

As the dish has spread around the world, it has inspired spinoffs: Greece’s gyro, Mexico’s Al Pastor, and Lebanon’s shawarma, to name a few. But, it is Germany that is credited with boosting the popularity of the modern day version of doner kebab: meat stuffed into a pita, with any of a variety of salads, vegetables, and sauces. There are said to be more than 16,000 doner kebab establishments in Germany, and the sandwich has now spread through much of Europe, too.

Until recently, though, this type of doner kebab was not available in Charlottesville. (The doner kebab on Sultan Kebab’s menu, while delicious, is made from ground beef and lamb cooked on a grill.) In 2020, Turkish natives Ali Sevindi and Haldun Turgay came to the rescue with their restaurant Otto. Sevindi and Turgay met while working at Clifton Inn, and dreamed of opening their own restaurant. They had seen the popularity of doner kebab elsewhere, and thought it would appeal to Charlottesville, too. How could it not?

To make sure, before opening, Sevindi and Turgay spent months studying and perfecting their doner kebab. At Otto, guests can build a sandwich from an array of fillings, or choose from a menu of signature items.  Named with a nod to the dish’s Ottoman and German roots, the “Ottobun” offers a choice of beef, chicken, or falafel stuffed into pita with hummus, red cabbage, sumac onions, pickled cucumbers, tzatziki, and ezme – a Turkish paste of tomatoes and red peppers. A sign on Otto’s wall says: “It always starts with great pita!,” and Otto makes their own from scratch, soft and pillowy. In fact, they make just about everything from scratch, which may explain why one of Charlottesville’s top chefs called the Ottobun the best thing he ate all year.

#4: Ottobun with Beef – Otto
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Doner Kebab Sandwich at Sultan Kebab, Beef Shawarma Manousheh at Thyme & Co. Vegetarian Alternatives: Ottobun with Falafel at Otto, Falafel Wrap at Aromas Cafe, Falafel Flatbread Wrap at Sticks.

#13: Adana Kebab Sandwich on Pita, with Yogurt Sauce – Sultan Kebab

The Kebab Sandwich

It speaks volumes about the excellence and growth of our food scene that this was once my favorite sandwich in Charlottesville. It’s not that the sandwich has dropped in quality. Not at all. Since opening in 2012, Sultan Kebab has been a model of consistency, never offering something that does not meet the high standards of the restaurant’s two owners.

Those owners hail from two different regions of Turkey – Izmir and Adana – and Sultan Kebab’s food draws on both. The Adana kebab is ground beef marinated with fresh red peppers, red pepper paste and paprika, and then shaped along an iron skewer, and grilled over an open flame. For the sandwich, they wrap the long kebab in lavash bread, along with lettuce, tomato, and onion. While excellent, even better is substituting the lavash with Sultan Kebab’s house baked pita bread – soft, fresh, and delicious – and adding yogurt sauce. No matter how much Charlottesville’s food community grows, this sandwich would always be worthy of the area’s best.

#13: Adana Kebab Sandwich on Pita – Sultan Kebab
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Kafta Manousheh at Thyme & Co., Iraqi Kabob at Al Basha, Chicken Khati Roll at Kanak, Kibbeh Flatbread Wrap at Sticks, Souvlaki Pita at Tip Top. Vegetarian Alternatives: Vegetable Manousheh at Thyme & Co., Paneer Khati Roll at Kanak, Vegetarian Sandwich at Sultan Kebab

Five Finds on Friday: Brittany Miller

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Brittany Miller of Cakes by Rachel and Shenandoah Imagery. There are lots of great cake bakers in the area, but only one who was once head chef of Clifton Inn, Rachel Willis. Miller runs the office for Cakes by Rachel and also has her own food photography business, Shenandoah Imagery. As a classically trained chef, Willis still loves a challenge, like our request for a Manhattan-inspired cake to help us celebrate this weekend. White cake baked with a splash of whiskey and bitters, brushed with a whiskey cherry syrup, filled with homemade brandied cherries and triple whipped cream, and iced with a “Manhattan” buttercream: vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream accented with whiskey, vermouth, bitters and Fiori di Sicilia. Miller’s picks:

1) Vegan “Crab” Cake Sandwich at Firefly. “You can’t tell it’s not real crab. And this is coming from someone who orders crab cakes whenever I see them on a menu. I would recommend Firefly to any vegetarian or vegan looking for delicious eats.”

2) Southern Fried Chicken at South Street Brewery. “A huge piece of perfectly seasoned chicken is complemented by pillows of mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s comfort food at its finest. Better than Grandma’s.”

3) Chocolate Sour Cream Cake from Cakes by Rachel. “Everyone who’s had Rachel’s baked goods can attest to them being the best in the area, but Rachel’s chocolate cake reigns supreme, and I’m not historically a huge fan of chocolate cake. Pro tip: order yours with the chocolate buttercream. Absolute heaven. Everyone wishes they were her official cake taster, but that’s actually part of my job. I’m very lucky to work there.”

4) Sigara Börek at Sultan Kebab. “Hot phyllo rolls filled with Turkish white cheese and parsley should tell you all you need to know. They’re like mozzarella sticks, but better. Having shot their whole menu, I can certify that the owners are really great people who are passionate about their food and you can tell. Every bite amazes.”

5) Chicken Paffle from Iron Paffles. “What exactly is a paffle? I’m not really sure. I just know those paffle sandwiches taste really freaking good. I recommend the chicken with the macaroni and cheese and sriracha. The chicken is tender and the paffles are perfectly flaky. Mac and cheese just rounds it out to make it a perfect sandwich. I can’t wait to go back.”


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