If that mode of preparation sounds a little familiar — like, maybe, a kebab — you’re on the right track. Kay Bob’s (get the name now?) is a kebab place with a Southern twist, says Pizza Perfect’s Amir Arab, who’s a native of Iran but has lived in Middle Tennessee since the ’70s. He and his brother Ali own the Pizza Perfect at 1602 21st Ave. S. and its Bellevue spin-off. (The Pizza Perfect on Granny White is a separate operation owned by Amir’s former business partner.)
Amir Arab says one reason to skew the concept away from straight-ahead Middle Eastern cuisine is to avoid duplication with the upstairs neighbor, a Middle Eastern restaurant called … Middle East Restaurant. But the blending of food traditions also reflects Arab’s dual perspective.
“I’ve been here for 30 years,” he says, recalling the culture shock when he came to Middle Tennessee from Iran in the late ’70s. “I go back now and I don’t know it,” he says, laughing. “Nothing’s seasoned the way I like it.”
He does plan to play up everything that’s healthy about traditional kebabs, like fresh ingredients cooked over a flame instead of a greasy griddle. All the sauces will be made from scratch, he says, including lemon-saffron, cucumber and one of his nods to Southern comfort food: barbecue sauce. He’ll also have a house-made olive tapenade to top the sandwiches.
But along with healthy and even vegetarian options, Arab promises hearty fare like grilled kielbasa. And to help folks kick back after work, Kay Bob’s will serve beer (no wine or cocktails), including six brews on draft.
A Pizza Perfect veteran, Andrew Tarpley, will manage Kay Bob’s as a co-owner. The team hopes to open Kay Bob’s open sometime in July, after major construction to expand and improve the space, which has had a long and not always illustrious life representing a world tour of cuisines in various quick-serve guises — Chinese, Japanese, Indian and most recently, burritos. (Predecessor Mr. Burrito Fresh was locally owned and had a pretty good menu, but it lasted only a couple years.)