The Family Behind Mini Kabob Delivers Big Armenian Flavors From a Small Restaurant

He stands in the prep area of ​​the tiny kitchen at Mini Kabob, the beloved restaurant his family owns in Glendale, California. The night before, the 32-year-old and his father had finished planning a local wedding for 100 people, so supplies are running low, including the seasoned ground beef that forms the basis of what is arguably the most emblematic of their restaurant: the tender lule kebab. As it emerges from the flames, it glistens with grease and ripples with flavor. Swaddle the meat in a blanket of fluffy lavash and a shower of paper-thin onions, and it’s one of the best bites in town.

Although it might seem that Mini Kabob is a reference to the restaurant’s surprisingly small size – it measures just 299 square feet – or its surprisingly small staff (there are exactly three employees: Armen; his father, Ovakim; and his mother, Alvard), it is actually a style of kebab, known as loghme in Persian. The Martirosyans inherited the place name from the original owner, who opened the restaurant 36 years ago right across from his mechanic shop, selling meat skewers when he wasn’t fixing cars. Ovakim, who spent several years working as a cook in the Russian army, bought the restaurant 25 years ago after it passed through a series of different owners, transforming the kitchen into a celebration of simple Armenian cuisine but full of flavor (with an Egyptian-influenced sweetness, thanks to Armen’s grandparents).

Space may be small, but it is hard to ignore the energy and the heart flowing back and forth through space. It’s a family store in the truest sense of the word: Ovakim is a meat master and does the majority of the labor-intensive prep work. He mouths the different proteins before grinding them and seasoning them according to recipes he likes to keep close to the vest. Ovakim then lovingly and patiently pats and carves the meat onto the flat, sword-shaped metal skewers with wet hands. It’s easy to see the years of experience in his steady pace.

The inexpensive, tough cut of beef called flap meat is full of flavor, with a coarse grain that absorbs marinades well. Marinate it for 24 hours and smash it with a meat mallet for the juiciest, most tender skewers.

Get the recipe: Beef Shish Kebab

Credit: Photo by Julia Stotz / Food Styling by Caroline K. Hwang / Accessories Styling by Samantha Margherita

The ground beef kebab recipe at Mini Kabob is a Martirosyan family secret, but they were willing to share their equally delicious chicken version. Freshly ground chicken thighs with lamb fat give these skewers a rich, savory flavor and a juicy, tender texture. The restaurant grinds all the meat in-house, and you can also use a grinder. (We love the KitchenAid meat grinder attachment.) Or ask your butcher. If you don’t have a meat grinder, no problem: the F&W test kitchen has developed an alternative (and less rich) version that you can make with pre-minced meat.

Get the recipe: Chicken Lule Kebab

Credit: Photo by Julia Stotz / Food Styling by Caroline K. Hwang / Accessories Styling by Samantha Margherita

Alvard, who Armen says is arguably the “best cook” in the family, has knife skills that could worry even the most veteran assassin. She prepares batches of the restaurant’s cold entrees, like ikra, a tangy eggplant salad, and mounds of finely sliced ​​onions tossed with sumac, which help round out almost any dish. Alvard and Ovakim do all the shopping for the restaurant themselves, regularly going to the local supermarket and bringing back plastic bags of eggplant and peppers.

Armen, who joined the company full-time after completing his culinary studies, staged in high-profile kitchens around Los Angeles and managed other restaurants, takes on a triple duty of managing the grill, answering the phone that constantly ringing and welcoming customers entering and exiting the store at a quick clip. (Due to space constraints, there are only two small tables at the front of the restaurant for restaurant patrons, so this is primarily a take-out operation.) makes it easy, without ever breaking a sweat while jumping. from the grill to the customer.

As with many successful family businesses spanning generations, there is an underlying tension, felt most palpably between son and father. Armen is almost overflowing with ideas on how to modernize and expand the restaurant, while Ovakim prefers to keep things as they have been for a quarter of a century. “I tried to convince him to let us accept credit cards for years,” Armen said with a sigh. The compromise ? The “cash only” sign in bright blue ink still sits in front of the register, but Mini Kabob is now on all third-party delivery apps.

Hot coals impart a smoky flavor and sweeten the jalapeños, while the tomatoes mellow into a juicy sweetness. A wide, flat skewer is key to keeping tomatoes and jalapeños from rolling as they turn on the grill.

Get the recipe: Charred Jalapeños and Tomatoes

Credit: Photo by Julia Stotz / Food Styling by Caroline K. Hwang / Accessories Styling by Samantha Margherita

A crispy exterior with a soft, chewy center makes these quick-cooking fried potatoes a fun addition to a kebab feast.

Get the recipe: Mini Potato Kebabs

Credit: Photo by Julia Stotz / Food Styling by Caroline K. Hwang / Accessories Styling by Samantha Margherita

The biggest change was the restaurant’s strong social media presence. Armen runs the Instagram account with nearly 37,000 followers, posting everything from behind-the-scenes videos of charred kebabs on the grill and close-ups of him marinating meat for their tender beef skewers to charming videos of his parents dancing around the store. He recently put the restaurant on TikTok, where Armen is amassing thousands of views on videos of him and his parents recreating popular dance trends at the restaurant. Mini Kabob’s internet presence has earned it a legion of fans, elevating it from an under-the-radar neighborhood joint to one of LA’s most famous kebab spots, counting celebrities like Diplo and Eric Wareheim among His fans.

Armen hopes to one day make Mini Kabob less mini by expanding into nearby space so that there is at least a proper dining area to lay out trays full of rice, charred peppers, crispy beveled potatoes and extremely soft tubes. of meat licked by the flames of the grill. And while he has a deep emotional attachment to the restaurant he grew up in, he also has his own ambitious culinary aspirations. When he’s not tossing kebabs, Armen runs a pop-up concept called MidEast Tacos, fusing his Californian upbringing with Armenian roots. He’s opening a brick-and-mortar MidEast Tacos location while dreaming up other concepts he’d like to bring to life. But for now, he has to go back to the kitchen: the skewers don’t grill themselves and the orders are piling up.

Twice-cooked eggplant provides the creamy base for this succulent smoky condiment seasoned with tangy chili paste, fresh cilantro and onion. It’s delicious with lavash or as a dip for mini Kabob potatoes.

Get the recipe: Ikra (Eggplant Caviar)

Credit: Photo by Julia Stotz / Food Styling by Caroline K. Hwang / Accessories Styling by Samantha Margherita

Crushing the garlic into a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle helps stabilize the emulsion for this airy and tangy whipped garlic sauce.

Get the recipe: Toum (garlic sauce)

Credit: Photo by Julia Stotz / Food Styling by Caroline K. Hwang / Accessories Styling by Samantha Margherita

Thin slices of onion, herbaceous parsley and tangy sumac come together in this refreshing salad-based condiment.

Get the recipe: Sliced ​​Onions with Sumac and Parsley

Credit: Photo by Julia Stotz / Food Styling by Caroline K. Hwang / Accessories Styling by Samantha Margherita

Comments are closed.