Skokie's Taboun Grill primarily caters to the village's significant population of Orthodox Jews, but their food is good enough that it's worth trying for anyone who enjoys Middle Eastern fare.
Located in a strip mall at 8808 Gross Point Road, the casual spot features an open kitchen where you can watch the meals prepared and chicken shawarma spinning on a spit. There are plenty of dark wood tables, with room for two along the wall and long tables for large groups in the back. An inlaid brick wall is decorated with bright colored Jewish art, including images of candlesticks and a man dancing with a Torah, all of which are for sale.
The spot was quiet when I came in for lunch around noon Wednesday, with just two couples and a family with an infant sharing the dining room, but service was still mediocre. When I asked my server for recommendations she just shrugged. I'd been intrigued by the Israeli juices on the menu but my server never asked if I wanted anything to drink and walked away as soon as I finished placing my food order so I just settled for water.
While a busser came by regularly to refill my water, she never checked in outside of delivering food and seemed to go on lunch break halfway through the meal, leaving me to flag down another server when I wanted my check.
Regardless of what you order, meals at Taboun Grill start with a small plate of sliced pickles and pickled beats. It's an excellent way to stir the appetite, with the very sweet beets turning the whole plate purple and providing a great contrast to the sour and crisp pickles. The menu at Taboun has two settings: expensive and cheap. All the meat is Kosher certified and that designation comes at a premium price, with chicken shwarma priced at $17 and beef shish kabob and $27. But the vegetarian fare is a great deal, with huge pita sandwiches available for $6.
I started with Yemenite soup ($4) which was so excellent I immediately ordered some to take home for my sick fiance. The dish features large chunks of boiled potatoes, diced fresh tomatoes and cilantro served piping hot in a broth flavored with the savory taste of cumin. My falafel sandwich came out as soon as I was done with the soup and it was perfect. The pita was soft and warm and absolutely packed with pieces of spiced and fried chickpeas and Israeli salad made from a very fresh mix of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. The whole thing was mixed with thick and creamy humus. It was flavorful and so filling that after the soup I was only able to finish half of it.
If you don't know the difference between fleishig and pareve, it's probably not worth going to Taboun for a big dinner. The food may be good, but there are non-Kosher places where you can get significantly better service and ambiance for the price. If what you'll looking for is a quick midday bite, it's hard to beat $10 for a great lunch that will leave you with plenty of leftovers.