Curry Craving: Ravi Kabab
Next time somebody claims you can’t get good Indo-Pak food in the DC area, throw some dal in their face and slap them with a hot chapati, and call them out on their ignorance. For the meatier side of things subcontinental, I present: Ravi Kabab, an Arlington institution steeped in Lahori deliciousness.
Lahore of course is widely considered the food capital of both Pakistan and arguably the entire Panjab region, split between Pakistan and India. Before anybody tells you anything else – Panjabi food is pretty damn similar on both sides of the very-recent border. Ravi is named after the main river in Lahore, a name shared by Ravi in Dubai (which has been in Dubai since 1971. Nothing’s been in Dubai that long!), and sticks to its guns.
You won’t find any fakey-fake chicken tikka masala here. They don’t fuck around*: only proper karahi curries – quick-cooking spicy affairs with your choice of meat in a thick tomato based gravy, laced with ginger, coriander, and chiles, big enough to serve 2-3 and priced around $22 – will do, along with excellent sides and weekend specials. And what sides and specials! Ravi’s cholay (chick peas) are allegedly in demand from several states away, and their saag side is a perfect foil to a meaty karahi. On the weekends, you can get nihari – actually a Muslim specialty from Delhi, it’s a slow-simmered chunk of beef in a rich sauce accompanied by lots of lemon and ginger. The naan pumped out by the tandoor makes a tasty utensil (forks are for pansies), and the salty lassi is richer and tangier than a citrus plantation tycoon.
Of course, it’s in the title, so you don’t expect me to gloss over the kababs, do you? The smell of meat grilling is strong from across the street, and it’s hard not to be lured in by the various skewers of lamb, chicken, and beef, served with a couple of sides and rice, a bargain at $10-15 or so. The DC area is mostly known for Persian kabab places like Moby Dick, which are all well and fine, but the stuff here is several leagues above, both in terms of care of preparation and in terms of seasoning.
I know the above sounds like it could be anywhere, but the food here is legendary. It rivals the best Pakistani taxi-driver joints in the UK and Dubai, and while I can’t vouch for the Subcontinent itself, the swarms of customers speaking Hindustani and Panjabi are a sure sign of its authenticity and awesomeness. Honestly, if you come at busy times, say weekend dinner, expect a wait. Fortunately there are two locations, literally catty-cornered from each other, so go to whichever one is less crowded – Ravi II is a bit more spacious and less cheek-by-jowl. But both give you the same menu and food, letting you feast like a bhangra star for well under $20 a person (cash only).
Another bonus: Ravi I is open till 2 am and Ravi II till midnight on weekends, and all night long during Ramadhan!…because…you’ve been fasting, right?
350 N Glebe Rd
Arlington, VA 22203
250 N Glebe Rd
Arlington, VA 22203
both online at ravikabobusa.com
*WBH strongly disapproves of fucking around.
†I have no idea if that’s true, but feel free to try and let me know.