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King’s Kabob in Culver City

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Welcome back to Dining On A Dime a bi-weekly feature in which Lizbeth Scordo surveys LA's cheap eats restaurants—often obscure, ethnic, unsung spots—proving that dining on a dime is alive, well, and quite tasty in this here city. Have a place she just must taste? Drop us a line.

I'm all for a solid Mexican breakfast, and I could probably eat huevos rancheros every day of the week if given the chance. But, for the latest installment of Dining on a Dime, I decided to stray from L.A.'s ubiquitous south-of-the-border fare when it comes to the most important meal of the day. I’d heard about a place that serves a good Egyptian breakfast — scrambled eggs, sliced tomato, cucumber, onion, feta cheese, pita and, fool, a popular Egyptian dish containing my favorite bean on Earth, the fava. So I headed over to King's Kabob in Culver City — a hole-in-the-wall that's been serving Middle Eastern fare like shawarma, falafel, and kabob for 15 years — looking forward to temporarily trading tortillas for pitas. Turns out that's easier said than done.

I’d called the day before to ask what time they starting serving breakfast. Answer: 9AM. When my friend and I pull up at King's, a weathered stand under a blue awning along Sawtelle Boulevard just before 9:30AM on a recent weekday morning, it's was clear we were too early. We park behind the building in a lot shared with a batch of colorful bars along Jefferson Boulevard with enticing names like the Scarlett Lady Saloon and the Tattle Tale Cocktail Lounge (both welcoming patrons at that hour, by the way) and peered in King’s windows to discover no life at all, though, even more confusingly, a sign posted on the building declares they actually open at 8AM. In search of answers (and fool), we stop in two doors down to the affiliated King's Cafe where a young man told us the kabob stand does indeed open at 9AM, so they must be running late today. After 10 or 15 minutes we lose hope and abort the mission. Strike one.

A few days later I decide to try again, this time solo, and not until11:30AM. So what time do you open, anyway, I ask? The guy behind the counter says 11AM just as a man standing out front says 9AM. Hmmm. Well, the front man (who turns out to be the owner, Mohammed) explains that 9AM is actually the official opening time ? starting tomorrow. But you serve breakfast now, right? Yep, for about the past six months, he says. There's just one problem: They don't have any fool today. (Cue sound of my heart sinking). Tomorrow, though, tomorrow. Strike two.

I'm not coming back a third time without actually trying something, so I go ahead and order the platter anyway. The good news is I can substitute anything I want and the guy inside recommend hummus. I also add a side of falafel, and he throws it in for free for my troubles and tells me I'm welcome to wait in the cafe and he'll bring my breakfast over. Before I do, I ask for a takeout menu. Turns out they're printing up a new batch. But they'll have some — you guessed it — tomorrow.

I walk past a throwback of a hair salon and into the narrow coffee shop, and it's here where everything turns around. I’m happy to report that strike three never comes.
The other day I'd barely glanced around the café -- which is actually owned by Mohammed's son Omar -- but today I find it lovely with its deep green walls, a skyline mural behind the counter, and a handful of two-tops, anchored by a couch and coffee table (currently taken over by a man with a laptop and file cabinet’s worth of papers). Mark, the friendly morning manager, welcomes me and goes over the day's brews from Groundwork. I settle on an Ethiopian blend with hints of berry and it's delicious. He explains there's usually art on the walls as they try to feature local artists but they're just about to put up a new installment. He also rattles off that the café has monthly movies, a weekly music night, and gets a good crowd from LMU, before he moves on to greet a stroller-pushing mom.

My breakfast arrives and, thankfully, it quickly softens the lack-of-fool blow. The scrambled eggs are perfectly fluffy next to a pile of tangy, crumbled feta cheese. I also love the creamy hummus, topped with the traditional drizzle of olive oil and parsley, and not too heavy-handed on the tahini, letting the delicate taste of the chickpeas come through. But it's the falafel that's the best thing on the plate. Perfectly crunchy with a flavorful mix of mashed beans and parsley inside, it makes me forget the fool completely, I swear. Maybe my Egyptian breakfast quest ends here, I think, and I’ll just come back for the falafel plate, which according to the takeout menu (Mark has dug up the sole remaining one!), includes rice, hummus, cucumber yogurt and pita. Or maybe I’ll be a fool for fool and try again. Tomorrow.
Breakfast $4.99 to $5.99; Lunch and Dinner $4.99 to $10.99
—Lizbeth Scordo

King's Kabob

5500 Sawtelle Blvd., Culver City, CA

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