Just as you can't always judge a book by its cover, you also can't judge a restaurant by its storefront. As you walk up to Tabaq, it more closely resembles an internet cafe than a restaurant, with the "Open 24 hrs" signs on the front doors and bare walls and Ikea-esque tables inside. At first, Tabaq appears to serve up food cafeteria-style, but upon closer inspection the main dishes are actually prepared in the kitchen and the side dishes, like samosas, are kept in the hot trays up front. Ten minutes after you place your order, it'll be ready and waiting for you to pick it up on red lunch trays. While this set-up may make some foodies weary, the quality and quantity pleasantly surprises diners in this Old Town Indian/Pakistani restaurant.
Tabaq's $9 entrees, which come with rice or two huge pieces of naan bread and a side salad or daal (a bean-based stew), include clssics like chicken tikka, which is marinated chicken cooked Tandoori-style in a charcoal-fire oven. The meat is tender and the spices are medium-hot for an American palate, but perhaps a little mild for those that like it hot. Some other options include chicken and beef kabobs or grilled or fried fish.
There is a wide range of beverages available including fruit shakes and mango lassi, a drink originating from Punjab made with mangoes, yogurt, milk and a hint of salt. Tabaq also offers a breakfast menu ($1-$3), which includes dishes like omelets and aloo or queema parathas, flatbreads stuffed with potatoes and lamb, respectively. Tabaq finishes it off with $2 desserts like zarda (only prepared on Fridays and Saturdays), a Pakastani sweet rice made with raisins, nuts, orange zest, cream and sugar.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Katie Chelminski