Hikmat Gazi, whom local foodies may recognize as the man who started House of Kabob. In 2005, after five years of growing the Thompson Lane storefront into one of the most popular Middle Eastern restaurants in town, Gazi returned to his native Iraq to work as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, helping to screen locals who were applying for jobs. He sold House of Kabob to his cousin, Hamid Hasan, who still runs the bustling establishment. (He also sold House of Gyros on Stewarts Ferry Pike, a restaurant he had started in 2004 and that is still thriving today.) The first thing you notice upon entering Shish Kabob — in a small strip mall that also houses Sulav International Market, an international grocery Gazi opened last year — is the thoughtful decor. Amid artwork and tapestries that adorn the walls are several glass boxes filled with traditional clothing, bags and accessories from Kurdistan — subtle touches that transform what might otherwise be a typical strip-mall eatery into a dining room worthy of a date night. In one front corner is a walled section with low tables and cushions on the floor, for those who want the full traditional experience. For those of us too old, creaky or just plain lazy to get up off the floor, the rest of the room is filled with standard tables and chairs. At Shish Kabob, winner of Nashville Scene’s Best Persian Food, Iraqi Kurdish restaurateur Hikmat Gazi oversees a menu brimming with authentic Middle Eastern fare. Nashville Scene also chronicles Hikmat’s absorbing journey from an adolescence spent in a Turkish refugee camp during the Gulf War to his triplicate success in the restaurant business. After working with the U.S. military in Iraq, Hikmat returned stateside to purvey a spread of Middle Eastern fare imbued with authentic spices and set amid traditional décor from Kurdistan. Shish Kabob is yet another excellent entry in a neighborhood known for its many international eateries.
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