Ali Baba Kebab

A few months ago I noticed a new restaurant setting up shop on Princess Street, just up from Clergy.  I thought I was dreaming, a new Middle Eastern restaurant downtown!  My favourite!  I was so excited to see Ali Baba Kebab and knew that I had to try it.  Harvey and I, along with a good friend, finally made a visit last week.
Ali Baba Kebab, Lebanese restaurant, Kingston, OntarioWe arrived to find a sign outside with photos boasting various menu items including hummous and falafel.  This was the place for me.  However, once given the menu, I quickly noted that none of these items were actually listed.  There were 8 items on the menu, none of which were salads (tabouli and fatoush being staples from what I know of experiences in other Middle Eastern restaurants) and there was no falafel to be found, or anything vegetarian for that matter.  We asked our waitress and she said she could bring us some hummous and falafel as an app, which is what we decided to do, but we were still somewhat perplexed as to why these items weren’t listed on the menu.  The hummous is shown above and came with garlic sauce and a rather skimpy basket of dry pita wedges.  There wasn’t enough pita to scoop up all the hummous and we were never offered more.  I can’t tell you the price of the hummous or falafel because neither one is listed on the online menu either.  I found the hummous to be OK but too peanut buttery for me.  My dinner companions enjoyed it more but one later commented “I was pretty hungry though.”
Ali Baba Kebab, Lebanese restaurant, Kingston, OntarioThis is the falafel appetizer.  The falafel were fine but I missed having a pita to mash them into and without any other sides like tabouli, hot sauce or turnip, I felt they were lacking.  I’m not entirely convinced they were home made either.
Ali Baba Kebab, Lebanese restaurant, Kingston, OntarioHaving given up on my hope to order something vegetarian, I settled for the Saffron Chicken as my main ($11.99).  These were chicken thighs, still on the bone with rice and a deep fried…something.  I think it was a very thinly sliced piece of pita.  The rice was tasty but the chicken was tricky to eat and the flavour was far too rich for the huge amount of chicken.  I needed something more to even it out but instead I ended up leaving half of it on my plate.  I think the fried thing was the best part – because it was fried.
Ali Baba Kebab, Lebanese restaurant, Kingston, OntarioHarvey ordered the Ali Baba Chicken ($12.99) and enjoyed it quite a bit.  He said the spice was just right and the chicken was juicy and flavourful.  I find the price a little obscene.
Ali Baba Kebab, Lebanese restaurant, Kingston, OntarioThis is the Shawarma Mix ($10.99) and to me looks most like what I would expect from this type of restaurant.  It came with salad, rice and sides (hummous, turnip and pickles) and a generous amount of meat, and yet it was the cheapest dish we ordered.  Our dinner companion enjoyed it and said he would order it again.

Overall, I would like to say I had a great experience because I love this kind of food and want to see restaurants like this thrive in Kingston, however, it really left me craving a better meal.  The restaurant itself is clean and time was clearly spent decorating it.  The bathrooms were mostly tidy but needed attention as I had to change my own toilet paper roll and the garbage was overflowing.  My biggest recommendations for the owners would be to clarify exactly what is on the menu, lower the prices or justify them by hooking us up with some extra pita bread or more condiments, give us some vegetarian options and get a liquor license.  I’m not saying I won’t ever return, as the restaurant is young and needs time to develop, but I won’t be hurrying back any time soon.

Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

17 thoughts on “Ali Baba Kebab

  • Fully agree that this place needs some tweaking, and I hope the owners take the constructive criticism seriously to make for better dining experience, and a long lasting restaurant. I would love to have more Lebanese-style restaurants such as this in Kingston. A fave of mine is La Luna in Hamilton, which is so good we hosted our rehearsal dinner there. Sadly I wouldn't go so far for Ali Baba Kebab. The Ali Baba Chicken was great, but because of the price, and the low quality of the pita, I wouldn't go back until confirming they'd changed something. That's not to say you shouldn't give them a shot, but just know what to expect.

  • I've been to Ali Baba twice now and while I would go back, I agree it needs some tweaking. The first time I went, it was clearly just after opening, as there was (unseen) construction going on in the rear of the restaurant. On entering, it was a bit confused as to whether I was to sit and be given a menu, or if it was a cafeteria-style operation. It seems to be both? There was halfway through the meal, the sound of a loud motor and the smell of diesel fuel. I ordered the schwarma mix, which was dry and odd-tasting (and lacking ANY of the veggies or pickles shown in the picture, just the hummus and garlic sauce – which was a bit mayonnaisey for my liking.) I didn't eat half of it, but put it down to the restaurant being in the first few days. The (owner/waiter/some guy) who ended up bringing things suggested a glass bottle of imported pepsi, which was quite nice. This guy was very friendly and apologized for the noise.

    I tired it again a few months later, and the waitress explained that they were out of half of the things on the menu. I said I'd really like some falafel instead, as it appeared on the signboard. She agreed, and brought out some dry pita and ?packets of butter? while I waited. I ended up with a reasonable falafel wrap, though I'm used to being able to decide what goes in the wrap, garlic sauce, turnips, etc. Maybe I should have gone up and used the cafeteria-style part? Who knows.

    Like I said, I'd visit again, but it wouldn't be my first choice. Maybe I'm going about the whole thing wrong and there is a cultural element I'm not getting. Some clarification would help.

    As to a liquor license, when I was searching for a review site after the first visit, the only site I could find was a halal restaurant ratings site with no comments as yet – alcohol use might be discouraged by the owners as it is haram.

  • I should also mention that I absolutely mourn the loss of the Lebanese take-out place that was where Mia Gelato now is. Serving the odd mix of Lebanese food and Kawartha Dairy ice cream, they made an absolutely wonderful fatoush salad (and apologized the one time they had run out of sumac!), and great schwarma and falafel. The most friendly owners in the world, too. I had gone in 3 times over the course of a few weeks and my goodness, it was like being family. "Oh, you must try this, you'll love it!" "oh, you've never had this? You must try it, no charge!" I felt obliged to leave a ludicrous tip one time after the owners somehow conspired to give me a free salad and dessert with my falafel.

    Sadly, it was not to be and they only lasted the one season.

  • I am not sure what people expect from a place called 'Ali Baba'… it's hardly likely to be haute cuisine. There is a Lebanese place up on Princess though – anyone know what it's like?

    • Are you referring to King of Donair? (I think that's the name, across from The Mansion). It's got all the right stuff but their hours are weird and I find their food a little salty. Or is there another one I'm missing? Fill me in!

    • Insert requisite "don't judge a book by it's cover" comment. Seriously though, I had decent expectations for this place, but it's too young to really warrant an honest review. Or at least, I hope it can improve upon what I saw during my first visit. Bottom line, don't count these guys out, yet.

    • I forget what it used to be called, but what is now King of Donair used to be this wonderfully seedy little coffee place. Pool table in the back, dank and miserable, sort of sketchy altogether, if had lasted til today it'd be choking on hipsters. I haven't been to King of Donair since I don't live over that way but the word is it's pretty meh.

      I went to that place over on Division by the Pizza Pizza that was a hairdresser's previously, across from what was once Jumbo Video (not the one by the traffic circle.) It was OK, but like 35 degrees in the tiny little ordering space.

      Also because I am too lazy to make another comment, in researching my earlier comment about alcohol being haram, it turns out that in the hadiths it is haram not only to drink alcohol, but to serve it, distill it, sell it, basically anything involved with alcohol. So a liquor license looks unlikely.

    • It is call Famous King at 505 Princess St, and I thing it is the first Lebanese restaurant in Kingston,it is very good one.

      • That's right Famous King at 505 Princess is the best Lebanese food ever in Kingston, Try Their donair or shawarma and you will be amazed.

    • I think you're referring to "Famous King". Never went into it because it looked old, rundown and frankly looked like it was not in operation. But it apparently still is. Reviews online that I've seen are very mixed with some people loving it and saying they go every week for donairs and others saying it only serves re-heated soggy food that's not worth the price (which is still cheap).

    • I think you talking about Famous King, it is opposite the Mension 505 princess, I guess

  • I went on the Saturday of Victoria Day weekend, and experienced some of the worst service I have ever had in a restaurant ever. Took forever to take our order, didn't bring the drinks we ordered, food took a ridiculously long time (they weren't that busy). Food was okay, but service was so bad I probably wouldn't go back.

  • I went with a friend here for lunch in mid-October 2011 (it's now early Dec.), having never tried this sort of food before at a restaurant (I'd made my own falafal pitas at home). My friend was lured in by the $2.99 falafals on the sandwich board outside and I opted for the chicken shawarma wrap. Apparently for $2.99 & $5.99 (my shawarma), it didn't come with any side dishes although we did get a basket of bread & hummas (I think, although I can't quite recall but we did get something similar that was complimentary), so both of us ordered the rice for another $2.99. Both of us really enjoyed our meal, but we knew what we were getting because the ingredients were listed on the menus (as were the wraps themselves).

    • Everything was hot and seemed fresh: both the rice & our wrap ingredients. The service: our server was quick in taking our orders and the food was timely enough (maybe 3-5 minutes longer than I would have expected but not a half-hour! Again, I'd never been to a Middle Eastern restaurant so I'm not sure how long the food would take.) It was odd that we had to pay up at the "cafeteria" section, but otherwise, it was much the way we expected. There were some other customers eating there; a lone businessman and a table of about three women who seemed to enjoy their meals. Unless I was just lucky, I do think that the place has tried to improve their menu & service since the summer. I plan on going back.

  • Give this place another shot. They now have shawarma and falafel wraps on their menu, and they are absolutely incredible. Flavourful, fresh, healthy, and delicious. I have gotten free tea twice, and once they even brought me complimentary hummus and pita bread. The pita bread was soft, chewy, and still warm – fresh out of the oven! Nothing like the dry pita you described here.

    I honestly cannot say enough good things about this restaurant.

  • We order the family meal from Ali Baba Kebab. My kids love it, devour everything offered, and the cost is less than ordering pizza. Yummy!

  • Food – Food is always made fresh, straight off the grill. You can definitely taste the freshness in the quality of their food. Price is very reasonable for portion sizes, enough to dine in and even take home.

    Staff – Very friendly and courteous! Complimentary tea was delicious. Service was very timely considering the business of the restaurant. A very popular place.

    WOULD DEFINITELY COME HERE AGAIN! Recommending to everyone!

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